Mykal and Kate Bartholomew moved their restaurant down the Great Ocean Road to Lorne in Victoria during metropolitan pandemic restrictions. "Great, we thought. We can get all the staff who are stuck in their 60 square foot apartments in the city to come with us. "They could get out of town and get some fresh air in their lungs," Mr Bartholomew said. The scenic coastal town of Lorne vibrates with tens of thousands of sunseekers in the summer months. But the couple had heard stories from fellow Lorne restaurateurs warning that finding accommodation for their staff was nearly impossible. The reality of a coastal town with a heavy reliance on pricey holiday rentals soon dawned on them. Kitchen porters at one restaurant were pitching a tent on the foreshore to sleep after their evening shift and before their morning shift would start. When the Bartholomews opened Coda Lorne their employees were sharing an 18-person home located 10 kilometres out of town. "Most of the front of house staff were able to talk their way into moving to a customer's shed or spare room, but chefs stayed there through the summer," he said. Two of his staff members rented a one bedroom granny flat from a customer for $320 per week. "They were alternating, one night on the couch, one night on the bed, for six months," he said. The couple also invited staff members to move into their three bedroom rental apartment with their young son. IN OTHER NEWS: One Lorne venue was bringing staff to the town as fly-in, fly-out workers, he said. Mr Bartholomew said his thriving restaurant struggled endlessly with issues around staff accommodation and the couple reluctantly returned to the city. There was "no incentive" for people with holiday houses to rent to lower-income workers, Mr Bartholomew said. Instead of collecting a few hundred dollars per week throughout the year, holiday-homeowners could wait until peak summer months and charge $1,000 to $1,500 per day. "These homes lie vacant for the rest of the year". Some residents of the seaside town have joined an initiative called 'Adopt a Worker' where spare rooms, cottages and bungalows are rented to essential staff at an affordable price. Mr Bartholomew would like to see more residents join the cause and convert large blocks into dormitory-style accommodation. "It can't be charged at $700 per week for travellers. It has to stay at a fixed rate for workers all year round," he said. The restaurateur said unsympathetic Lorne residents would suggest staff seek accommodation inland in Deans Marsh or Colac. "But my staff don't want to. They moved to Lorne for the same reason as everyone else, because it's beautiful," he said. Restaurant staff "support the tourism dollars" that flood into these towns, Mr Bartholomew said. "Without support for staff, regional towns will have a pub, a local Chinese takeaway and a pizza shop," he said.