THE food, beverage and entertainment sectors are strongly pleading with the Government to have discussions with them to pave the way for a safe reopening, as the danger of a socio-economic collapse is looming larger than ever.
The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (TTCIC) hosted a virtual news conference yesterday afternoon to present plans for responsible reopening by the sectors that are closed/partially closed for business due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Presentations illustrating protocols for the health and safety of employees and customers were shared from: Barkeepers and Operators Association, Caribbean Association of Event Professionals, T&T Alcohol Beverage Alliance, T&T Members Club Association and representation from the cinema operators and food and beverage sectors.
The various sectors all expressed their financial constraints from the impact caused by the pandemic, which has left thousands of employees unemployed.
Ingrid Jahra, chief executive officer of CinemaOne Ltd, said since Covid-19 began, the cinema sector took all the safety measures outlined by the Health Ministry to protect their staff and customers.
“We had reduce occupancy which was stipulated by the ministry and World Health Organisation, in order to practise proper social distancing in the seating rows. The cinema sector also had staggered show times to conduct proper sanitising for the next set of moviegoers and I am happy to report there were no positive cases within our sector.”
Jahra noted that New York will soon be reopening its cinemas while the United Kingdom and France kept the sector open in their second wave of Covid-19 nor imposed restrictions on concessions.
Restaurants close to tipping point
Peter George, owner of owner of Trent Restaurants Ltd, which operates Trotters, Buzo, Amara, Blue Star Diner and Tommy’s, said businesses may be close to a tipping point.
Speaking on behalf of the food and beverage sector, George said, “I am here to discuss the decimation of an industry that is so critical to the human fabric and that is actually close to extinction. This is the biggest health and social crisis in generations.”
George said his business was one of the first to close and he understands the need for sacrifice.
“I understand completely the sacrifice in the interest of public health. But...it’s no longer about the restaurants, bars and clubs, it’s the underlying structural damage that is being done, specific to the people in the industry.”
George also outlined that the 10 p.m. rule for the closure of businesses “defeats the purpose”.
“We understand the logic behind the 10 p.m. closure but it defeats the purpose. A much more compressed timeframe makes it more difficult for customers to enjoy our offerings safely and comfortably. So the government can extend the hours; it’s not going to help spread the virus more,” George said.
He also spoke about his restaurants than can no longer afford to maintain all of its businesses.
He said the last eight months have seen a devastating and prolonged 70 per cent contraction in business.
“Until the closure of our Blue Star Diner concept in September, we have kept every member of our staff gainfully employed and have sought to offset losses through shareholder support and prudent management,” George added.
Chamber CEO Gabriel Faria said most other Caricom territories have reopened borders and allowed similar businesses to open with positive spin-off effects for the whole economy.
“In the current scenario the relationship among Government, business and the wider society is interdependent with regard to finding ways to navigate through the pandemic. The private sector has demonstrated over the month that it is responsible and willing to work with the Government,” Faria said. See Page 13