Ariapita Avenue in Port of Spain

(flashback)Passage to Asia is one of several liming places on Ariapita Avenue in Port of Spain that have seen their revenues take a tumble after the Government implemented the stay-at-home measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 last month Photos by Jermaine Cruickshank

MOST business owners on Ariapita Avenue agree with the Government’s move to shut down restaurant operations as of yesterday until April 30 to help curb the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that that the stay-at-home order has been extended to April 30.

T&T had its first COVID-19 case on March 12th and the borders were closed on March, 23 to all international flights until further notice.

This is an escalation of existing border controls which previously only barred the entry of non-nationals into Trinidad and Tobago.

Up to Monday evening, T&T had 105 cases of COVID-19 and 8 deaths.

Express Business spoke to a few businessmen to get a sense of how they are coping financially with this situation.

Passage to Asia restaurant owner Dipchan Persad said it has been hard operating on a curbside basis, before the announcement. He said for the month of March he lost 90 per cent of revenue compared to previous months.

“My establishment usually brings in $15,000 to $20,000 and since curbside was introduced in mid-March, the sales were down to $2,000-$3,000 a day,” Persad said, although he added that he believes the government did the right thing by limiting people congregating to help bring the situation under control sooner rather than later.

He is urging landlords to be understanding with businesses and home tenants, as everyone is feeling the effects of this crisis.

The popular Pub House owner Johnny Quan said his staff, who are daily paid, were home from since mid-March when it was announced that bars had to be closed. Now that the stay-at-home directions have been extended to April 30, it’s going to be even more difficult for them.

“I find this measure is a bit drastic, as I did not think the curbside needed to be cut out entirely, but the government has to do what it has to do and we should be grateful that they are not going the route of “State of Emergency.”

Quan expressed great disappointment in some landlords who, during the pandemic, are still demanding their entire rent from business owners and tenants, fully well knowing the monies cannot be forthcoming at this time.

“This situation is of grave concern as many Venezuelans who were registered to work are now without jobs and landlords are threatening to evict them, something needs to be done. This is wrong as this can create more homeless people, which can also cause the spread of the virus and other diseases.

“What I must say is the Government is doing a great job in managing the crisis and putting strategic measures in place.”

On the topic of whether the government should render financial assistance to small and medium-sized business, Quan said he does not believe the current administration is able to do so, as things are going to get really bad before it gets better and some businesses may not be able to weather the storm.

The Factory, which is an outdoor bar and restaurant on the Avenue, was forced to shut its doors until further notice as bandits broke into the establishment on March 28 and stole $95,000 worth of alcohol. The bandits then came back a second time and stole two televisions and then proceeded to vandalise the place. One person has since been arrested.

The owner Angelo Aziz said before this unfortunate situation happened, they were doing curbside for two weeks and he was rotating his staff in order for everyone to earn some kind of income.

“Now that the staff is home, I ensured that I filled out the salary relief grant form so that they can receive assistance, during this period. However, I believe the government should extend the grant to workers who are not paying National Insurance (NIS) as they also need assistance, as this enhanced shutdown could go well pass May month. “What is my major fear is many people who have been retrenched or sent home, may turn to crime out of frustration.”

Aziz said the decision to shut down the restaurants is a good idea because people are still not adhering to the rules and regulations.

And across at Frankie’s Restaurant and Bar, owner Chris Santos said the food takeaway business, which they were doing Monday to Saturday has been really slow and most days the workers had to throw away the food.

Santos said revenues had decreased to 90 per cent as the bar was the only business bringing in the cash to sustain the food section.

“We were trying to stay open to ensure that the employees still have a cash flow at this time but now that these new measures have been put in place, we have to abide and just hope that this crisis can be over soon and that people adhere to the instructions given by the authorities,” Santos said.

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