Mixed views in South on bar hours reduction

Atherlys restaurant and bar, Cipero street San Fernando Photos by Lincoln Holder
Atherlys restaurant and bar, Cipero street San Fernando Photos by Lincoln Holder

Bar owners and managers who have been complying with government guidelines are not pleased with the errant bar operators and customers who caused the two-hour reduction in opening hours.

The hours have now been cut from 8 am-10 pm to 8 am-8 pm.

Bars were allowed to reopen on June 22 after being ordered to close in March because of the covid19 pandemic.

Newsday visited several bars in San Fernando on Monday after the National Security Minister expressed disappointment at the behaviour of the public in congregating and failing to comply with the guidelines.

Paula Atherly, owner of Atherlys by the Park at Cross Crossing, opposite Skinner Park, said the new restriction was unfair to those bars whic had complied with the regulations and stipulations for the covid19 pandemic.

D Vibez bar, Riverside drive San Fernando - L Holder

“I am being penalised for complying, which is unfair. Those bars that did not listen or adhere, they are the ones who should have had to close earlier,” Atherly said. “When people finish work and go home, they take a few minutes to rest before coming back out. This would be around 7 pm.

"Who is going home after work to come back here to leave at 8 pm?”

There were several signs about the virus at Atherlys. Customers sit at every other table. Some tables have signs asking them not to sit there to ensure physical distancing. Patrons must wear masks on entry.

Pavement lounge, Sutton street San Fernando - L Holder

The business also sells breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

She criticised errant managers and customers, saying, “It is about being responsible and caring for our families and friends.

"I think some Trinidadians do not understand how serious this is. Our health care system is not capable of dealing with this virus.”

Bills, she said keep piling up and people do not have money.

“I have to pay NIS, PAYE, VAT, rent, salaries, electricity, phone, incidentals, etc.

"As much as the government has asked landlords to be lenient and to work with tenants, they too have their responsibilities.”

Because of the lockdown, Atherly said, she had to close her other outlet, Atherly’s on the Sutton, at Sutton Street.

“We sold two breakfasts for today. Most of the staff have not yet received relief grants from the Government.”

At Pavement Lounge on Sutton Street, there were few patrons. The owner, Terri-Lisa Guisseppi, was also unhappy about the reduction of opening hours.

“The problem, from what I have seen, was in the north. So why penalise the bars in the south? Why do we have to suffer?

"We are complying. I am also speaking on behalf of the bars around, because we network,” Guisseppi said.

This lounge does not sell food, and sales are slow during the day.

Guisseppi said: “Things pick up from around 10 pm, then run for the whole night. This is a night-time bar and we are losing business.

"We have to pay rent and workers. Last week, we operated at a loss. Before covid19, we would have been open whole night till the next day at around lunchtime.”

She said a colleague at Coffee Street had to close owing to the lockdown.

“The landlord wanted $15,000 a month. They (Government) are crippling us (operators) and the so-called help is not forthcoming.

"It’s a lengthy process to get the grant but I will apply.”

Chairman of the Schmidt group of companies Derek Smith, however, had no issues with the opening hours.

SKYY View Lounge at Riverside Drive, San Fernando, as well as D' Vibez Lounge will open to the public on Wednesday. SKYY view is upstairs and D’Vibez, downstairs in the same compound which houses Linx Suites Hotel and SESL Ltd, a security firm.

“We have not reopened yet.

"Here is always packed.

"As a director of the South West Regional Health Authority, I take the initiates of the Prime Minster very seriously. We are not in a rush to reopen,” Smith said. “TT is number one in the world in terms of control (of the pandemic).

"As a group, we have been playing our part. I cannot preach one thing and do the other.”

SKYY View Lounge is rented for events such as weddings and conferences.

Empty seats at Atherlys restaurant and bar, Cipero street San Fernando - L Holder

Smith also criticised errant operators and customers.

“At the other bars, I see people liming like normal and not wearing masks. Some bars are worse off than before the pandemic.

“Our position is always in line with the health and safety protocols of the Health Ministry. Even before covid19, we offer transportation. If patrons get drunk, we have shuttles to carry them home.”

Lance Smith, acting chairman of the group, felt the same. The lounge sells food and drinks. All staff are certified and well-trained, he said.

Ricardo Lute, a marketing officer, said the group has a strong clientele and management always ensures the health and safety of these “supporters” are of utmost importance.


"Mixed views in South on bar hours reduction"

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