Bar Harbor businesses prepare for summer season

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:59 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Businesses around Bar Harbor are getting ready for the influx of visitors this upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Maine’s tourism season has officially begun, and in Bar Harbor, business owners say they’re ready for the influx of visitors this summer. One challenge some business owners are still dealing with though is making sure they have enough workers.

“I’d say that’s probably the biggest, and I’d say a lot of the challenges outside of that are surrounding that workforce issue,” said Everal Eaton, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce executive director.

It is full steam ahead for shops, hotels, and restaurants in Bar Harbor as they prepare for what will hopefully be one of their busiest weekends of the tourism season.

“It’s great to see people out and about again. We’re excited for the season to come,” said Bo Jennings, Side Street Cafe general manager.

For restaurant owners like Jennings, he relies heavily on foreign workers made available by the federal H-2B visa program to help him with staffing.

“We have incredible people here, but it’s because it’s been a long off-season finding those folks, so it really is a year-round job even if you’re physical business isn’t open year round,” Jennings said.

Jennings currently has 30 employees enrolled in the program.

That’s the most H-2B visas they have been able to give out.

On top of working around the workforce shortage, Bar Harbor, like many towns across the state, is also dealing with a housing shortage.

Once his visa workers arrive, he does help them find a place to stay.

“A lot of the questions I ask of somebody that’s looking to come to Bar Harbor. My first question is, do you have housing? If you don’t have housing, first, it’s really tough to offer somebody a job when you don’t know for sure if they’re gonna be able to work or not,” Jennings said.

While it is hard for businesses to predict what the summer season will bring, many are optimistic and busy preparing for the weekend ahead.

“There’s that worry, and then you just put a smile on and give the best service that you can and really build that connection with customers to be able to get them to come back and give their time here and shop for memories, not just things,” said Victoria Conner, My Darling Maine Island Boutique owner.

Another major factor helping Bar Harbor businesses is cruise ships.

The town has already welcomed several so far.

While some residents believe cruise ships have a negative impact on the town, businesses say it is nice to have the extra foot traffic.

“We’ve gotten a late start with that as opposed to the last few years, but we’re hopeful that everything is going to tie together this weekend and jump us to go,” said Nichole Sargent, West Street Hotel general manager.