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The Bar Owners & Operators Association during a protest outside the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

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Bar owners are now concerned about their ability to pay gaming taxes following the reduction of operating hours at their establishments by the government.

Members of the Bar Owners & Operators Association Trinidad & Tobago raised the issue as they gathered in front of Whitehall, chanting “Bar Lives Matter too” yesterday.

“We have been closed for over three months with no income coming into our establishments. How is it fair for us to pay an entire taxation? That’s not fair at all. And these are some of the topics that we are asking that the government come to us and create some form of dialogue so we could come to an arrangement pertaining to these things,” said vice-president of BOATT, Satesh Moonasar.

“It is unfair to be paying a year’s tax when it have three months out of the year you have no business.”

President of the Association Teron Mohan said the reduction placed additional strain on the already reeling membership, as the two hours that were cut from 8 pm to 10 pm, often served as prime business hours for bars.

“Some people not even making enough money to cover the day’s operation. I would say as much as anywhere as 50 per cent to 75 per cent losses on a daily basis. That two hours there is really prime time hours for any bar to really make its best trade. So the lash just getting harder and more severe and the persons who disregarded the guidelines in the first place well I mean it was a restaurant that kinda spearheaded the whole thing and they got all the attention and they operating very freely, right up to their 10 o’clock marker.”

The bars had their operating hours reduced on June 29 to 8 am to 8 pm, just one week after they were allowed to resume business in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. The restrictions on bars were announced after several videos of crowds gathering inside and outside of bars flaunting public health regulations while other bars used the ambiguous opening time frame to open at midnight.

However, bars that operate under a restaurant license were allowed to open until 10 pm.

“It’s very unfair to have part of the industry functioning until ten and part of the industry functioning until eight. It is very unfair because based on your license, there is different lock-off times for license. For restaurant and special restaurants, you are allowed to go till 10, based on the health ordinance and it is very unfair that the Spirit Retailers License have to close at 8 o’clock. What’s the difference between eight and ten and you functioning in the same industry,” said Moonasar.

During yesterday’s protest, BOATT kept their numbers under 25 to keep in line with COVID restrictions as they intended to show the government their intention to adhere to the guidelines.

The bar owners issued a pre-action protocol letter to the Attorney General last week and had lobbied various Ministers including the prime minister for a response concerning their call.

They said if they don’t get feedback from the government before tomorrow, they will take further legal action.