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Layoffs hard for owners at Blue Pig Diner

Paul Kennedy, owner of The Blue Pig Diner on State Street in Gorham, cleans and sanitizes a table while guests enjoy a meal in the background. Kennedy plans to bring as many employees back to work as possible when he is allowed to increase seating capacity inside the diner. (Callahan photo)

GORHAM – Laying off staff has been the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic for the owners of The Blue Pig Diner on State Street in Gorham.

Reducing seating capacity as required by state restrictions has meant furloughing long-time employees who have become very close with the owners over the years.

“Financially, COVID has created no breathing room,” owner Paul Kennedy said. The diner has lost income because of the reduced number of guests, even with newly-created outdoor seating.

Kennedy’s plan is to bring as many employees back to work as possible when he is able to increase capacity.

During the time the diner was closed down, employees all received unemployment benefits, and Kennedy said that he was more concerned for the welfare of his employees than for himself and his family. “We just kind of held tight and crossed our fingers, really.”

Kennedy said dealing with issues caused by the pandemic was tough, and all he could do was research ways to keep everyone safe. He and his wife, Brianna, were able to spend more time with their kids, which was a bright spot after the fast pace they were used to.

The Kennedys previously owned a successful catering business in a small storefront just a few buildings down the street from The Blue Pig. They turned that catering business into a full-scale restaurant. Kennedy said it was challenging, but their experience in the community helped them over the years.

Now, in their larger, newly renovated space, just seconds up the road, the business has grown even more over the last six years. The biggest downside to the pandemic, after the disappointment of laying off staff, was that they had created a brand-new and successful restaurant that is unable to reach its full capacity, Kennedy said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, “The town was really great about the outdoor seating plan,” Kennedy said.

During the closure, he worked with every request the state required to keep guests and his business safe. Now, he is worried about everyone, including himself, continuing to do what they need to do. Following the state guidelines will help the restaurant, his staff and the community at large he said. “Just follow the rules!”

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