With the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday that the country will remain under partial lock down until October 11 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Barkeepers & Owners Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BOATT) says some of their members are paying the ultimate price for the pandemic.
In an interview on CNC3’s the Morning Brew yesterday, vice president of the association, Satesh Moonasar said several bars have been forced to close their doors for good.
“I have gotten calls over the past week where bar owners are being evicted from their establishments because some landlords are being reasonable, whereas some landlords are not being reasonable and putting bar owners out of their establishments,” Moonasar said.
He said that in the first part of the lock down measures in March, several bar owners breached the public health guidelines, casting a negative light on the entire industry.
And while he condemned those negligent owners, Moonasar appealed to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and other authorities not to broad-brush the entire industry. Under the current COVID-19 regulations, bars are allowed to open from 8 am to 10 pm daily. They are not allowed to have an in-house service for customers.
“In every sector of society there are the majority of people who do the right thing and the few that doesn’t adhere to the guidelines, so you cannot blame everybody, we believe that anybody who does not adhere to the Public Health guidelines should feel the full brunt of the law but it is very unfair to treat everyone the same way when we are doing the right thing and adhering to the guidelines,” he said.
He said while the association understands the seriousness of the pandemic, its members cannot continue to operate with so many restrictions.
He said health experts around the world predict the COVID-19 virus will continue to be an issue until maybe the end of 2021 when a vaccine is expected to developed and ready for use.
“We need to do something and put something in place where businesses can run in a controlled environment and we have those measures in place with the health guidelines from the Ministry of Health, we need to do something to have our businesses running, we can’t go on like this for any length or period again,” he said.
Moonasar issued an open invitation to Rowley, Heath Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and other health officials to visit bars and see the accommodations that have been made to ensure customers can social distance if they are allowed to serve drinks in-house.
“We are asking that the health inspectors come out and actually see at our locations what we have done, we are asking anybody, the PM, the Minister of Health wants to come to our locations and see what we have put in place to safeguard our customers, they are welcome at any point in time,” Moonasar said.
He said the association is expecting further fallout from the extension of the lock down.
He also appealed for financial assistance for bar owners and the 20,000 people, including many single mothers, who the industry employs.
“We have sent letters to the relevant authorities, the Minister of Health, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister, asking for some sort of consultation moving forward pertaining to the sector- also being closed for over five months it is very difficult right now, so we need some kind of financial support to stabilise our businesses, as well as our employees, because a lot of our employees are single mothers, and school has recently reopened in a virtual way and it is very difficult and a lot of strain to continue for five months of the year without an income.”