September 22, 2019
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Hancock County restaurant may stop serving lunch since it can’t find housing for workers

Courtesy of Wendy Frost
Courtesy of Wendy Frost
The exterior of the Islesford Dock Restaurant in Islesford, on Little Cranberry Island.

A popular Hancock County island restaurant will significantly curtail its service this summer if it can’t find housing for some of its seasonal workers, its manager said Monday.

Islesford Dock Restaurant and Gallery of Little Cranberry Island will likely forgo lunch during its summer season unless it finds housing for eight of its approximately 40 workers. Popularly known as “The Dock,” the seasonal restaurant is likely the biggest draw on the 200-acre island south of Mount Desert Island, and the reduced meal service would likely hurt other island businesses, co-owner Michael Boland said.

The restaurant’s general manager made a public appeal on Facebook late last week seeking housing leads. It’s the first time in the restaurant’s history that it would curtail service for lack of housing, but that shortage is nothing new to the area.

The Jackson Laboratory and Bar Harbor’s sizable seasonal tourist sector frequently encounter a lack of affordable housing on MDI. Jackson Lab’s new chief operating officer recently cited a lack of affordable housing for workers as the organization’s top challenge. Acadia National Park is looking to partner with a private developer to build housing for seasonal workers due to the shortage.

[The Jackson Laboratory’s biggest challenge has nothing to do with mice or research]

“Almost every business is impacted by it from the smallest to the largest,” Boland said.

The Dock isn’t faced with the prospect of cutting back due to any lack of customers. Seating about 100 customers at a time, the restaurant had a record 2018, serving 500 customers a day on at least four days during its four-month season. And it pays its workers well, according to Georgia Howland, the restaurant’s general manager.

Howland said that the restaurant needs housing for eight workers and that she might have found places to live for two of them. The restaurant employs about 40 full- and part-time workers, Boland said, and will be open from May 31 to Oct. 13.

Matthew Hochman, a Bar Harbor Town Council member who owns a coffee shop, The Trailhead Cafe, in Bar Harbor, said he has not heard of any other businesses on MDI or the Cranberries facing possible curtailments this summer.

“From what I’ve seen so far of employees trying to find housing, it would not surprise me if there were some,” Hochman said.

[Acadia’s plan to fix seasonal employee housing shortage could be the first of its kind]

The housing shortage is only part of the problem with The Dock. Five years ago, almost all of its workers came from full-time island residents or vacationing summer families whose teens earned extra cash by waiting or busing tables. So far this year, only 11 workers fit those categories, Howland said.

“At this point those kids have moved on, so we are having to import workers from other places,” Howland said. “There’s not a lot of new people coming to the island or coming to the island with kids who can work because there’s not a lot of [year-round] housing, either.”

“I am lucky I am running into this problem in one sense because I have so much support. Islesford is such a wonderful place,” she said. “I just hope that we can find someplace that can help us.”

 



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