Attorneys representing at least one doubles business have written to National Security Minister Stuart Young querying police officers ordering their client to close her operations in light of the Public Health Ordinance.
It was not a pre-action protocol letter threatening legal action, but it calls on the minister to work together with their client in an attempt to “get our country through these trying times”.
St Augustine Member of Parliament Prakash Ramadhar and attorney Larry Lalla yesterday wrote to the minister questioning why their client, Kelly Hosein-Richards, who operates D Original Sauce Hot Doubles in Curepe was ordered to stop her operations even though she set new protocols in place to operate her business such as “take-away services” in an attempt to reduce the interaction between the customer and employees to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The pointed out that regulation 3(2)(y) permits the operation of: “retail services, such as markets, supermarkets, fruit stalls or shops, vegetable stalls or shops, bakeries and parlours, for the provision of food”.
Further to that, regulation 3(2)(af) permits the operation of: “services relating to food.....such as (i) takeaway and delivery food service operations” except in-dining facilities.
“The regulations further prohibit persons from congregating in public places in groups of more than five and in the several press conferences recently hosted by the Government on this COVID-19 issue, the relevant health personnel have highlighted the need for business places to take steps to promote “social distancing” amongst their patrons.
New sale protocol
In light of this, the attorneys said their client had modified her business and that her food service operation was not done at the roadside in order to prevent the congregation of customers in accordance with the regulations.
Instead, even though she had initially closed the business she decided to reopen on Saturday given the demand of her customers.
“In doing so, at all times she sought to operate in a responsible manner by not permitting any ‘on site’ eating of the food sold and by issuing a new ‘sale protocol’ conscious of the regulations and the calls made by the authorities for social distancing. Her new protocol, which was posted widely on social media as well as at her business place stated as follows: “D’ Original Sauce Hot Doubles will like to announce we will be opening for business on Saturdays and Sundays 7 a.m. only, commencing from this Saturday 4th April 2020. However there will be a change in purchasing. Our methods would be “curb-side pick-up only.”
The attorneys said in setting the new protocol, their client was operating as many other food businesses that have not been ordered to be closed by the authorities.
Even though this was the case, the attorneys said officers proceeded to order their client to close up shop although there was no congregating on her property and despite her pointing out the operating protocols.
Let good sense prevail
“Minister, we have advised our client that under the regulations she falls under the class of permitted takeaway retail food services and the actions of the said TTPS officers was unconstitutional and unlawful being in breach of her property rights, discriminatory, harsh, oppressive, arbitrary and irrational.
“In the above circumstances, we write to you on behalf of our client (and indirectly on behalf of the hundreds of food vendors all over the country) to ask that good sense would prevail and that the necessary directive be given to the TTPS so that the discriminatory and unlawful conduct set out above could be prevented.
“So many of our food vendors rely on their small earnings as their only support for their families. More importantly, in this time of economic hardship when hundreds, if not thousands, of our citizens face an uncertain economic future, and are either operating their household with little money or trying to make what they have go as far as possible, it is important that cheap, safe sources of food be available to those who need it.
“We therefore appeal to you that a balance be struck that would allow the operation of small business-persons, like our client, who are prepared to enforce the regulation and guidelines issued to retail food services. It is hoped that resort to the courts can be avoided on this issue as we all strive to work together to get our country through these difficult times,” the attorneys stated.