The owner of a popular wholesale and discount store in Tobago has written to National Security Minister Stuart Young after allegedly being threatened by police to close his business under ongoing COVID-19 regulations.
But the minister responded yesterday, saying no such threats even took place and labelled the entire matter as “mischief”.
Lawyers representing Phillip Almandoz, the managing director of Miles Almandoz and Company Limited, of Wilson Road in Scarborough, made the complaint in a pre-action protocol letter sent to Young, yesterday morning.
“We are writing to you as line Minister with authority over the TTPS so that they may cease and desist from their planned quixotic pursuit of this intention to close down our client’s business,” attorney Martin George said in the letter.
George called for a speedy response as he noted that his client services a large number of Tobagonians.
“We wish to point out the urgency of this matter with this being a long weekend and with it also being the Easter weekend, it is a particularly special time for Tobagonians, who will need their essential supplies from our client’s business, notwithstanding the stringent circumstances at present,” George said.
George said that his client decided to take the action after he (Almandoz) was contacted by police on Thursday and advised to shut down his business while the public health regulations stay in force at least until April 30.
In the letter, George noted that Almandoz’s business, which holds a Spirit Grocer’s Licence, is a major distributor of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, household and cleaning products.
However, he noted that a large segment of the business deals with the supply of non-alcoholic drinks to numerous groceries, mini-marts and corner stores across the island.
While George acknowledged that Young had stated that “liquor marts” are not to be considered essential businesses under the regulations, he noted that his client’s business could not be classified as such.
“In light of same, Miles Almandoz and Company Limited has remained operational and intends, respectfully, to continue to remain operational, and the establishment continues to make extensive efforts to meet the increased demand for basic goods, by supplying consumers on a daily basis with essential commodities and by applying the necessary measures of social distancing and stringent Health and Safety practices for staff and customers alike,” George said.
He also claimed that the closure would affect the Tobago economy as the business employs a large number of people.
George warned that if the police officers continued with the plan, they would be acting illegally and he would have to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for their action and over any loss in business his client incurs during that period.
While George noted that he was seeking Young’s intervention, he copied Police Commissioner Gary Griffith on the letter so that he could weigh in and advise his officers accordingly.
Responding to the letter while speaking at a Ministry of Health press conference, yesterday afternoon, Young stated that he consulted with Griffith and was informed that no such threat was made by police as George’s claims over the nature of the business were indeed correct.
“The answer is there was obviously some level of mischief,” Young said.
He also claimed that the legal threat was unnecessary.
“There was no need for that. He could have reached out in a civil manner,” he said.
The action taken by the company comes days after Goutam Singh, of Singh’s Liquor Mart located along Bournes Road in St James, filed a lawsuit and an injunction application after he was forced to close his business this week.