The Bar Owners and Operators Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BOATT) wants a meeting with the government to discuss the future of the industry which has been heavily restricted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While bars are currently allowed to operate under the new Public Health Regulations, they are not allowed to have any in-house customers; much like other food establishments. It’s now the second time bars have been placed under restrictions since March. While it’s not as restrictive as during the first phase of infections locally when they weren’t allowed to operate at all, it’s still a harsh economic impact on the sector.
BOATT’s Public Relations Officer Anil Maharaj said during a press conference yesterday that 55 bars have already closed their doors permanently while 65 per cent of their 1,000 strong membership are choosing to temporarily close rather than operate under the “grab and go” mandate.
“Most of the bars cannot see the feasibility in opening. The cost and overheads attached to it might by far surpass the revenue they are generating on a daily basis,” he said.
He fears that 30 per cent of these bars which have temporarily closed their doors, may soon have to make the move permanent.
The industry, he estimates, provides some $1 billion in tax revenue to the state and employs at least 20,000 people. To ensure it’s survival, Maharaj called for “the Government and stakeholders to meet with us so we could go through all the issues and present good economic plans that would drive Trinidad and Tobago’s industry forward, into 2020 and beyond.”
Among the topics they intend to address, is the possibility of government loans to help keep the businesses afloat.
“We call on the government to provide some sort of assistance to this sector with respect to government secured loans seeing that the present format of the NIDCO and FCB loans offered by the government does not correlate with our industry, Maharaj said.
The association’s president Teron Mohan was vocal during the first “lockdown” period on the measures which they felt were too harsh for the industry. But given the developments around the country’s second phase of infections, he acknowledged the industry’s potential to compromise the fight against the virus and that it would be infeasible for bars to fully reopen until the spread is brought under control. However, he noted that their “plea now given that the numbers have been significantly lessened and certain rollbacks are being made, we want now to be able to understand or establish where do we lie along this path.”
“We know the Ministry of Health is trying to contain the spread from community down to cluster spread and we just want to know now what other improvements or what assistance generally or what part should we play that we don’t already play to ensure that it doesn’t become another rampant issue.”