It's fantastic to see people back in our pubs and restaurants, enjoying catching up with friends and family.
We can't keep up with the number of events being announced, but with the post-covid socialising comes another challenge - there is a run on hospitality jobs, and no one wants to fill them.
Jonathan Leggett from Thirroul's Wilde Cafe and Pickled Poet (see P5) is among the venue owners trying to fill staff vacancies.
He said a lack of fresh international workers due to travel restrictions had left it a buyers' market for job hunters. And staff who were furloughed during lockdowns have found other ways to maintain an income.
Business Illawarra surveyed local businesses and found 40 per cent were experiencing skills shortages. However, there were 203 hospitality and tourism jobs listed on Seek in the last two weeks.
With news last week that Wollongong's dwelling prices are now at a median of $1m, the struggle for staff could be about to get worse as our young people find they cannot afford to live in the area.
In Jindabyne, where many from the Illawarra like to head during the colder months, the combination of a lack of international workers and high rental prices means restaurant owners had to resort to providing staff accommodation or sky high wages this winter. The story was told in the Voice of Real Australia podcast (go on have a listen) and seemed at the time a problem only restricted to seasonal holiday venues.
But how long before we have to consider the same in the Illawarra? Peak season is around the corner, and regional Australia can now travel to 'Greater Sydney'.
This means we can only expect the demand for good food and entertainment to continue in the coming weeks.
If you work in hospitality right now you're in a great position to ask for a raise.
- Gayle Tomlinson