A man stands next to a sign calling for bars to be opened now outside Carrat Shed bar in Marabella on Thursday.

The Barkeepers and Owners’ Association of T&T (BOATT) would like bars to be allowed up to 50 per cent occupancy for inhouse services and a later closing time come Saturday when the Prime Minister updates the country on the way forward with new Public Health Guidelines.

“We’re hoping the sector can resume hosting patrons,” BOATT president Teron Mohan said in a Zoom interview yesterday with Guardian Media.

“As per our proposal that we put forward, we kind of earmarked for 30 to 50 per cent of our occupancy and that’s with effective social distancing. There’s a little more leeway that we could ascertain for the more outdoor ambience types of bars.”

He also hoped that some leniency could be given with regard to their operating times. He hoped they could be allowed to operate until midnight instead of the current 10 pm.

Bars and restaurants have been subject to restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic first threatened the country with their operation prohibited during the first phase of infection. During the second and current phase, however, they are allowed to provide take away service only. Despite this ease, he said it was not financially feasible for more than half the bars in the country to operate.

“There is still a significant part of the sector- they opted not to operate at all. It didn’t make economical sense. So maybe out of the 5000 plus bars in the country, maybe about 2,000 have opted to open and kind of, ride out the storm a little bit,” he said.

This he indicated also had an effect on employees as those who chose to operate often did so with reduced staffing. In his instance, his bar only retained three of some 12 employees with his relatives filling the gaps.

He said bars have already put measures in place to ensure that the Public Health Guidelines can be adhered to and enforced to ensure the safety of customers.

When Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the current period of restrictions at a COVID-19 press conference on October 10, he indicated that some leniency to operate could be given to some sectors once there was no significant spike in cases over the period.

“If there is no significant upward tick in our concentration of levels now, by the 24th of this month- we should be able to make the changes that would bring back activities into the two areas I just mentioned- churches and other places of worship and we can do a bit more for bars and restaurants,” Rowley said then.

Now all stakeholders are eagerly awaiting Saturday’s update as Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, that the latest figures for last week indicate a daily case average of around 30, down from the previous week’s cases.

“Last week’s average of about 30 to 32 per day, the week before that we had, if you recall, we had somewhere around 52 cases to 53 cases. So there has been a reduction. We’re hoping to see that trend continuing to the rest of the week and we’d have a better idea on Saturday thereabouts what happens this particular week,” Parasram explained.