From tomorrow, bars will be allowed to stay open until 10 p.m.
This has been extended from 8 p.m.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh made the announcement yesterday during the Ministry of Health’s virtual news conference.
He said the current public health regulations are due to expire today and, as such, the Attorney General is drafting the new regulations to allow the 10 p.m. closing time.
Bars were among the last establishments allowed to reopen in the relaxing of Covid-19 “lockdown” restrictions.
However, their opening hours were curtailed one week later due to crowds of limers breaching the public health guidelines.
This led to legal action being taken by the Barkeepers and Operators Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BOATT).
Yesterday Deyalsingh said the actions of bars and patrons were monitored over the past few weeks and the decision was taken to extend the opening hours once more. He, however, called for responsible behaviour.
“Having noted the surveillance of bars for the past few weeks, we feel that now the time has come for bars to now revert to their 10 p.m. closing time. We are asking again, as we do this measure, that both patrons and bars owners use the opportunity to continue to play their part in operating, behaving and using these facilities responsibly.”
But even as Deyalsingh cautioned bars, BOATT vice-president Satesh Moonasar called on the Government to adhere to its own regulations.
In a statement, Moonasar took note of the large crowds present as People’s National Movement (PNM) and United National Congress (UNC) candidates filed their nomination papers on Friday.
Moonasar referenced a number of videos showing crowds of political supporters dancing along with music trucks and not observing physical distancing.
In one video, Deyalsingh himself is surrounded by a crowd as he shows off his tassa-playing skills on Friday.
Moonasar questioned whether the health regulations applied only to bars and not political parties.
BOATT president Teron Mohan told the Sunday Express he believed it was this comparison that prompted the Government to relax its stance on bars.
He said there have been several videos showing crowds at beaches and other venues, and it made no sense to specifically target bars.
However, he said the legal action will continue, as there are other issues to be addressed, including the raising of the limit of 25 people allowed to gather.
Mohan said the 25-person limit is impractical for large bars.
“We feel victorious. We owe a great gratitude to our team of lawyers... however, we have barely scratched the surface. We are still looking forward to our day in court regarding the other issues.”
Mohan also advised bar owners to act responsibly.
“We are not out of this thing as yet and it is still their responsibility to adhere to everything else around the pandemic guidelines. Yes, they get the extra two hours, but it does not mean that everybody can just become too liberal and complacent.”
Yesterday, Deyalsingh addressed the issue of the nomination day crowds and said he was “very concerned”.
He said while nomination day is a cause for excitement, political parties and campaign managers must ensure the health guidelines are followed in their campaigning ahead of the August 10 general election.
He said the Government has no plans to increase the limit for gatherings to more than 25 at this time. He advised campaign managers to split their entourage into smaller groups if there are more than 25 people, and to ensure they wear masks, observe physical distancing and have access to hand sanitiser or water to wash their hands.
“These very common sense measures can go a long way,” he added.
Deyalsingh said should gatherings continue to be an issue at bars or campaign activities, the police have the authority to step in.