THE TT Beverage Alcohol Alliance (TTBAA) believes that another three-six months of limits on in-person gatherings and alcohol consumption in the sector will result in nearly 300 bars being closed.
Restaurants and bars have not been able to allow in-house consumption of alcohol since March last year, when government implemented restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the covid19 virus. Bars owners also operate on a grab-and-go system as they are still not allowed to have patrons drink inside.
Speaking with Newsday on Wednesday, TTBAA chairman Dr Patrick Antonie said their data has shown, to date, the closure of 232 bars and nearly 50,000 people in the industry laid off.
He said, “There are 232 bars that are closed. The challenge for us is to make sure that no more are closed because it is going to be very difficult to get them reopened.
“We know that there were about 130,000 people employed in those businesses (bars, restaurants and hotels). We know that when we moved to the severe lockdown, we were approaching 100,000 people who were not able to benefit from employment in the same way.”
He said the data concerning the restaurants and hotels were not readily available at the time of the interview.
Antonie added that with the slight lifting of the restrictions where bars were now allowed to have a "grab-and-go" system and restaurants allowed 50 per cent in-house dining, 50,000 people have been re-employed with the remaining people being engaged in less than full employment.
He explained that while the TTBAA and the Barkeepers and Operators Association (BOATT) were in support of government’s agenda to protect the population from the virus and was willing to work with them in any capacity, consideration must be given to the financial setbacks faced in the industry.
The association along with Carib Brewery this week launched a campaign in solidarity with the bars and restaurants called Save our Spot. Antonie said the industry endured a lot over the past year and support was needed now more than ever for its survival.
“Bars are not just a place where drunkards gather, it is a place where lots of people who drink responsibly also engage in social interaction. As a society we are enduring this crisis together, though we may be enduring it in different ways.”
Antonie said for these establishments most of their profits were generated from the sale of alcoholic beverages, but with the economic pressures faced by many, there may have been an increase in the sale of illegal alcohol.
And while the TTBAA, he said, does not agree with the mode of operations, financial constraints have forced some smaller establishments to step outside the rules.
“We understand that with the pressures that exist now facing the sector that many of the smaller operations that cannot essentially benefit from people congregating may no doubt be engaging in the sale of these products in a way that the guidelines and the protocols may not envisage.
“A lot of these operators are under pressure and for them they see it as being able to survive or not. The TTBAA does not condone this action, however, and have been working with BOATT in this regard to ensure it is managed.”
Antonie said they were hopeful of government’s pursuance of the covid19 vaccine for TT and expected some level of normalcy will be meted out to the industry.
“We want to encourage the authorities to roll out the vaccine in a far more rapid fashion that what it has been doing.”