If everything was normal, the UEFA Champions League final would be next week Saturday at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey.
And in T&T, Shaid Hosein and his team would be preparing themselves for one of their biggest crowds for the year.
The Hutt Shutts Sports Bar in Tacarigua has become a go-to of sorts for football lovers hoping to watch their favourite teams play on the big screen.
Therefore it would be normal on game day to see football fans dressed in their respective team jerseys at the sports bar and cheering for their favourite clubs.
“Yes, the Champions League final at Hutt Shutts is the next best thing if you are not in the stadium watching the game live,” Hosein told Guardian Media.
Hutt Shutts planned to have several viewing parties for the four semi-finals games as well as the final.
But this is not a normal time.
This week marks two months since Hutt Shutts had to close its doors.
On March 16, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that all bars should be closed as a precaution to stop the spread of COVID-19.
They were among the first businesses ordered to be closed.
And, based on the phased reopening of the economy announced by Rowley two Saturdays ago bars, are expected to be among the last businesses that will get the green light to reopen.
That reopening is expected to be sometime in July.
“We are the first to close and the last to reopen,” Hosein said. And bars are reeling from this, he added.
“I feel this will set us back about 20 years,” he said.
Hosein said he cut back on some of his regular monthly expenses in order to try and stay afloat financially.
“I have had to cut my cable, my internet at the bar. When I realised that bars are probably going to be the last to open I had to cut every single thing,” Hosein said.
“Those things we will have to put back in obviously when we reopen but it was not sustainable. We also have a lot of stock that will be lost because of expiration because beers do not have much of a long shelf life,” he said.
Hutt Shutts employs 40 people full-time, Hosein said.
Thirty of them are Venezuelans.
While the situation has been financially difficult for Hosein, he said he has promised all those employees that their jobs will remain safe.
“I was able to pay my employees 50 per cent of their salaries, I could not go much more than that because of commitments and overheads that I have,” he said.
Hosein said he was also able to prepare hampers for staff with the assistance of some of his regular business partners.
He has also written a letter to each of his employees’ landlords asking for leniency and assuring them that they are still employed.
The Hutt Shutt employees are lucky.
Dana who has been a waitress at a bar for the past three years however, does not have that kind of job security at this time.
The bar that she is working in is much smaller than Hutt Shutts and its owner has been financially crippled by the current situation.
“It was three of us working there. I have been out of a job for the last two months, with no pay. I applied for the Government grant but have not gotten anything as yet. My family is helping where they can,” Dana said.
This is a reality that many bar owners and workers are all too familiar with at this time.
A recent survey conducted by Carib Brewery has shown that bars are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the mandated closures.
And without income, they are unable to pay salaries.
This has put the country’s vulnerable in even a worse position.
Of the more than 50 bars that responded to the survey, the majority expressed uncertainty about how they would survive until July when bars are expected to re-open.
So far, the owners have been dipping into their respective savings to try and protect the families and their workers.
These requirements include sticking to table service rather than having customers order at the bar, and also us Carib Brewery Ltd conducted a survey to determine the impact of COVID-19 on their customers.
The questionnaire featured six questions to figure out the extent of the difficulties facing bars.
According to the results of the survey the bars stated that they have so far experienced more than a total of $7 million in losses since their doors were forced shut two months ago.
This situation has directly impacted around 400 employees from the bars surveyed.
Asked how they will be able to survive if the reopening of bars were to take place in July as expected, the majority of respondents said they would have no choice but to dip into their savings. Many said they have already begun to do so.
The fourth question in the survey asked the bars how they would adapt to the new normal.
The majority of the respondents suggested the installation of sinks at the front of their bars for patrons to wash their hands as well as the inclusion of sanitizer dispensers on their premise, the regular cleaning of tables and having their employees wearing masks.
They also included options for social distancing rules such as reducing seating and placing markers for patrons.
One respondent said the restrictions would be difficult for bars since “you can’t wear masks and drink a beer at the same time.”
The bars suggested the reduction in beer prices as a way to help the businesses attract patrons and try to get back on their feet.
The majority of respondents said sanitation would be the key to make them successful proposing the use of disposable glassware, and discouraging dancing
Hosein empathised:”I know everyone is feeling it. My funds are down to zero,”
Many of the businesses have committed to ensuring sanitisation stations and other measures are put in place to ensure a safe reopening.
“We take cleanliness very serious and initially we were actually disinfecting and cleaning down every area after a customer left. We have placed strategic points for sanitisers and we had staff in masks prior to us getting instructions to close so it is just for us to start back where we left off,” he said.
“Social distancing will be a problem. I do have plans to put separators and stuff on tables like they are doing internationally but it is not going to make sense financially doing that. I think I will be operating at a loss,” he said.
He said social distancing will result in less income and therefore decisions will have to be made about employment.
“Social distancing could work. I will be glad if we get the okay to open and if we have to social distance I am not going to be able to employ everybody,” he said.
Hosein said the government deserves kudos for controlling the COVID-19 here and it is time to reopen the economy and save livelihoods.
“I don’t know what will happen to me, if we reopen I hope I still have a job,” Dana said.
“This has been a hard two months and I hope it doesn’t last much longer,” she said.
From tomorrow bars in Texas will be allowed to reopen, as part of the second phase of the state’s reopening program.
Bars can only operate at 25 per cent indoor capacity and full outdoor capacity while also adhering to novel coronavirus mitigation and social distancing requirements and recommendations.