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Struggling in Pandemic

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For many in and around San Fernando, Rising Star was one of the go-to options to eat out and have social drinks.

But with no option to dine in, the popular restaurant has become a ghost town.

“People don’t want to buy and go home and eat. If you have to buy and go home and eat, better you cook home,” said the restaurant’s owner Chadraka Persad yesterday.

Manager Joel Lakatoo said at best a handful of people would come to buy food, on a good day.

“Sometimes for the day we might get two customers. Sometimes we might get none. On a weekend we might get five. It all varies. It’s something unpredictable but the curbside is very slow and the establishment can’t survive on that. They can’t pay the rent on that. They can’t pay workers on that,” said Lakatoo.

“I am afraid now at the point in time we don’t know if they will be able to keep the establishment open if they don’t open back up the restaurants and bars. Therefore we will be out of a job and the situation will be even worse,” said Lakatoo.

Persad owns two restaurants in San Fernando. Rising Star’s slow business is bad news in itself, but his other restaurant, Steel, has been closed outright as it has been tied to nightlife at South Park.

“We trying to hold it down over here but Steel, there is more nightlife and that mall is quiet right now with all the restrictions, so nobody not going to malls. So that business is closed presently. Rising Star, we still doing take-out but that isn’t making any much more money to pay the rent,” he admits that he’s had sleepless nights over the lack of business.

“We have loans to pay too. I have plenty loans to pay,” he said.

The concerns of the workers have been growing as well, as they face their own challenges from landlords, banks and caring for relatives.

“The bars have been closed since March and cases still going up more than ever. It’s just too much, too much to deal with,” said Jewel Woods, a kitchen assistant at Rising Star.

“It have a worker that working here, he catch a stroke, he get evicted, he call me told me, at the point in time when he call me, you want to help. If it is (that) I help him the first two weeks or maybe a month…What about the other 7-8 months down the road, will I still be able to maintain him, when having a mother to maintain, two kids to maintain plus whoever family need help in that same household, out of that household who not working?”

Woods said the anxiety faced has only increased as former workers have also been calling, seeking work, as the opportunities all around are scarce.

They’re hoping the Prime Minister gives good news, or at least special consideration to restaurants with open-air spaces like Rising Star so that operations can pick up for them.

“We just want something small. At least a little is better than nothing.”