Philly food and drink scene

Three popular Philly bars are closing for a week to give workers paid vacation

Standard Tap, Johnny Brenda’s and The International join a small list of independent restaurants where staff get summer PTO.

Outdoor dining at Johnny Brenda's

Outdoor dining at Johnny Brenda's

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
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Workers at Standard Tap, Johnny Brenda’s and The International are getting a paid vacation this summer, joining a small list of restaurants in the Greater Philadelphia area where staff regularly receive a week of paid time off.

Each of William Reed and Paul Kimport’s popular bars will close for a week as the employees in each respective location get their break.

The idea, Reed said, is to give staff time to recharge as they try to deal with the rush of new business after an extremely trying year-and- a-half that was filled with safety concerns and constantly changing rules and regulations.

“Capacity changed like six times. We built ‘streeteries,’ we built outside host stands, and we built dividers,” Reed said. “It’s not a normal amount of change. Rightfully so, people are a little worn out.”

In Pennsylvania, companies are not required to offer vacation time. Fewer than half of hospitality workers nationwide have access to it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the percentage is lower among small and independent operations. It’s one of the things workers most would like to change about the industry, according to a recent Inquirer survey of nearly 200 restaurant employees.

The International, next to the El in Kensington, is closed July 16 to 24. Standard Tap on 2nd Street in Northern Liberties will suspend service July 25 to 31, and Johnny Brenda’s at Front and Girard in Fishtown will shut down Aug. 1 to 7.

Both front-of-house and back-of-house employees who’ve been with the organizations at least a year will be paid during the breaks, Reed said. He and Kimport are still figuring out a system to accurately and fairly determine rates.

Hearthside in Collingswood. N.J., provides employees paid vacation time twice a year — the weeks of July 4 and Christmas — which chef-owner Dominc Piperno said allows them to reliably plan vacations and family gatherings.

A New Jersey law entitles employees to one hour of PTO for every 30 hours they work, Piperno said. He brought the weeklong vacation tradition to his restaurant after working at Vernick Food & Drink, which had a similar procedure in place.

He believes the consistent breaks are important, and play a role in staff retention and morale. “We’re lucky we could afford to pay them … because it’s just the right thing to do,” Piperno said.

At Hearthside, front-of-house employees receive $12 per hour for their vacation time (in New Jersey, servers normally make $4.13/hr plus tips.) Wages for the back-of-house employees at the BYOB vary depending on their tenure at the restaurant.

Nearly all area restaurants have been struggling to hire enough staff since COVID restrictions were relaxed, which just adds to the stress level for those who are working, said Reed, of Standard Tap.

“You come [out of] the pandemic situation and the strain on restaurants has been crazy,” Reed told Billy Penn. “It’s stressful AF.”

He said business partner Kimport, who was opening chef when Standard Tap launched more than 20 years ago, is now back in the kitchen at The International while they search for more cooks.

The weeklong breaks are meant to ensure employees don’t feel like they’re putting the rest of the team in a bind by taking vacation time while the staff is already thin, Reed said, adding that he hopes to make it an annual tradition.

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