At least one bar owner is calling for a change in how the number of patrons allowed in the establishment is determined after police forced him to shut down operations on Saturday night.
Shahid Hosein, owner of Hutt Shutts Sports bar in Tacarigua, said officers of the Guard and Emergency Branch shut down his operations for having more than 10 people in his establishment at once. However, he contends that his two-storey, 12,000 square foot establishment has enough floor space and separate spaces to safely accommodate more than the stipulated 10 people.
“Our establishment is pretty huge. It’s over 12,000 square feet and we could put persons 10 feet apart and still have over 190. We had (on Saturday night) 10 to 15 tables that were empty and all the tables were 10 feet apart,” Hosein said.
“I don’t even need to have all that amount (of patrons). I just want to pay some bills and ensure some workers have a plate on the table at the end of the day.”
He said on Saturday night, his establishment had less than 50 people in it who were all very clearly separated into, at the most, groups of 10.
“There are videos that they could look and see that everybody was separated. It’s just the personal people… whether it was boyfriend or girlfriend was close to each other- which they would have been accustomed to being.”
Hosein said his interpretation of the guidelines was that it should be a group of no more than 10 and that he would have been able to have multiple groups of ten once proper protocol was adhered to- much like the advice given from Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to candidates contesting today’s election.
His daily staff, he said, consists of 40 people and operating with the stipulated 10 patrons is not feasible. He said it would be more financially feasible for him not to open than to operate under the current stipulation.
He cited that religious institutions aren’t limited by the stipulation, instead, are allowed to have congregations based on the square footage of the building, accommodating 36 square feet per person.
In light of this, he has written Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Roshan Parasram asking that bars be evaluated and a unique number of patrons be stipulated for them based on their size, in a similar fashion.
“I have been writing the CMO…for clarification or to visit our venue or to see the size of the space and see that we’ve been following all of the protocols in order to tell us if we could have a few more persons,” Hosein said.
He noted that he is yet to get a response.
President of the Barkeepers and Owners Association of T&T (BOATT), Teron Mohan backed his call. He also believed that Hosein did nothing wrong.
“My position and understanding of the guidelines is that we are allowed to facilitate groups of 10 or less persons in one group and, depending on your footprint, you are able to facilitate multiple groups as long as the members in each group remains at 10 persons or less, six feet apart from the other group,” he said.
This he said was even clarified in a recent press conference with the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health. However, he said this has been a point of controversy over the weekend between multiple bar owners and police who were trying to enforce the regulations.
“I had been in continuous conversation with the Commissioner of Police who also shares my knowledge and understanding of how these space restrictions are, how the limitations are set about and…there are some of the officers who are acting in contradiction of these guidelines.”
“The government has done a lot in explaining this down to detail. I don’t know how much more explaining they could possibly do. Maybe they need to clearly document something again and have that transferable to all the officers across every precinct in the country. The Commissioner of Police is doing his part I know. But somewhere in between there, there is a miss in translation when it comes to the understanding of what a group of people really means,” Mohan said.
He was stumped as to what more could be done to clarify it further but contended that “something needs to be done.”
Guardian Media attempted to contact both the Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and the Chief Medical Officer, however, calls went unanswered.