As five more bars shut their doors permanently in the last two weeks because of significantly declined earnings, head of the Barkeepers and Operators Association, Teron Mohan, is keeping his fingers crossed that today Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will bring the sector some positive news.
Following a spike in Covid-19 cases, Government rolled back public health measures in August and ordered that in-house dining at bars and restaurants be stopped.
Bars were initially closed in March and re-opened fully in June.
At a news conference on October 10, Rowley said once there were no significant increases in positive Covid-19 cases, restrictions for bars, restaurants and places of worship could be relaxed by today.
Speaking to the Express by phone yesterday, Mohan said the association was looking forward to the full re-opening of bars.
He said to date about 100 bars have closed permanently due to Covid-19 restrictions and an average of 600 of their employees have been put on the breadline.
“They had to walk away. After the Prime Minister’s address two weeks ago, within our membership alone five of them made the decision to close their doors. They’ve been liquidating their assets within the last two weeks,” Mohan said.
“For me personally, I have been operating on significantly less money than I am accustomed to for the last three months. I have only allowed the business to run to make sure my staff have earnings,” he said.
Mohan said the association had submitted to Government a detailed proposal highlighting its re-opening strategy.
“We hashed it out for a couple weeks and we also sought consultations from the Trinidad and Tobago Alcohol and Beverage Alliance as well as the T&T Chamber (of Industry and Commerce), and we came up with effective guidelines for the re-opening strategy,” he said.
“The bars as well as the association are fully equipped for the reopening to take place and to uphold these guidelines to the fullest of our capabilities, together with the assistance of the relevant authorities,” he assured.
He said apart from the standard public health guidelines of ensuring mask wearing, sanitising and social distancing, the association proposed to limit seating to as much as 50 per cent occupancy.
He said the association also proposed to remove the element of standing and mingling within the bars.
Also hopeful for a lifting of restrictions today is MovieTowne owner Derek Chin, who closed MovieTowne’s Chaguanas branch earlier this month due to the impact of the pandemic.
“I hope for a positive response (today). Everybody has said that shutdowns don’t really solve any problem. The World Health Organisation came out and said that shutdowns are not a good idea,” he told the Express.
“It’s not going to go away tomorrow so we can’t just lock down the country and lock down everybody and have all these people under pressure, regarding employment,” Chin added.
President of the Greater San Fernando Business Association, Kiran Singh, said he is looking forward to restrictions for bars, restaurants, casinos and cinemas being relaxed.
“That would regenerate some employment that was lost over the several months and it would also generate some consumerism and commercial activity.
“Even with the food courts that are in mega malls and street malls, they have lost a lot of business and employees as a result of the lockdown. If we are allowed to ease these restrictions I think that would get the economy back up and running,” he said.
He said because casinos sustain a lot of employment for single mothers “for that reason alone they should be allowed to re-open”.
He said while he understands that the country’s borders cannot be re-opened until Covid-19 numbers are significantly reduced, easing restrictions is a step in the right direction.
“The world in fact knows that we cannot continue like this. A senior official of the WHO has stated that there is no significance with respect to continuing the lockdowns in such a stringent manner and the fact that the (Chief Medical Officer) has been hinting that there may be some ease in the restrictions, given the fact that mortality rates have stabilised and infections are not increasing, those are welcome signs for us to continue.”
Noting that during the first lockdown some people were complacent and were not wearing their face masks and social distancing, Singh said he felt citizens have since “learnt their lesson”.