It's only a matter of time until New Albanians are overheard saying, "Hey, did you know there's a bookstore at Taco Steve's?"
Ten years ago in downtown New Albany, there were three, maybe four, independent eateries, and another couple of bars serving simple meals. Today, the number is in the vicinity of 17 or 18 -- even I can't keep track, and more are in the planning stages. Perhaps a dozen among these have at least a few good beers on tap.
It's unlike anything this town has ever seen. One might delve into numerous topics of discussion pertaining to New Albany's food and drink boom, but there is one truly fundamental consideration. Who is doing the work and filling these jobs?
Following are two links about one book. First, from Destinations Booksellers.
“Forked” Examines Plight of Restaurant Workers
Downtown New Albany may have one of the highest concentrations of dining establishments anywhere and there’s no sign of the growth tapering off. Yet, if local news reports can be believed, it’s becoming harder and harder to find workers willing to take jobs in this corner of the hospitality industry.
Forked: A New Standard for American Dining critiques less-examined aspects of restaurant worker exploitation, considering such topics as food preparers who must work while sick because of benefit limits and sexual harassment endured by tip-dependent servers.
The workers and the entrepreneurs powering New Albany’s restaurant explosion may well want to add this book to their shelves.
To conclude, NPR's take.
'Forked' Rates Restaurants On How They Treat Their Workers, by Tracie McMillan (NPR)
Saru Jayaraman may be restaurant obsessed, but don't call her a foodie. She's the founding director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national organization that advocates for better wages and working conditions for restaurant workers. She's also published several studies in legal and policy journals as director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California-Berkeley.
The combination of grassroots and ivory tower makes Jayaraman arguably one of the country's leading experts on what it's like to live as a restaurant worker in America.