OWNER of the Trent Restaurant Group Peter George is demanding the Government provide scientific evidence that restaurants are the cause of the recent spike in covid19 cases.
Moveitowne owner Derek Chin also shared this sentiment, saying there was no imperative data to show in-house dining was, in any way, a contributing factor in the rise of cases.
The businessmen spoke to Newsday by phone on Friday, on the latest public health restriction.
On Wednesday, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh announced a return to covid19 restrictions for restaurants, putting a ban on in-house dining for three weeks.
“There are no indications that the restaurant business, globally, is a source of a cluster of cases,” said George.
“Where is the science that directed the decision-making this time around?”
He said there was still congregating at shopping centres, supermarkets, and gyms, yet those businesses were being asked to follow physical distancing protocols.
“Restaurants are seemingly a soft target,” George said.
He said covid19 restrictions were far easier to enforce and monitor at restaurants, adding restaurant-goers were compliant.
“We have to live with the virus,” he said, adding people must take personal responsibility. “If you don’t have to go somewhere, don’t go.”
He said he rejected the idea that people were inherently irresponsible.
George said the first lockdown was devastating to his business.
"Prior to covid19, the business was coming out of two very challenging years. Sacrifices were made in order to combat the circumstances (which were) out of our control.”
He said restaurant owners complied with the initial lockdown, because they understood it needed to be done. He said, however, the measures did not achieve the expected objective.
“Restaurants are not the problem. I don’t see how rollbacks are going to do anything…If the lockdowns worked, why would more be necessary?”
He said his restaurants, including Trotters and Buzo, will remain open. “For the next three weeks, (employees) will not be denied a single dollar. The business will ensure staff will be paid.”
He said, however, he has advised staff not to take this measure for granted, because he is not sure of what will happen after the initial three-week period.
Chin said everyone was under serious financial strain.
“Thousands of workers are suffering now,” he said.
“They are crying to me every day. I have employees working 15, 20 years for me. I have a heart for them, but I can only do so much. The money has run out.”
He said the Price Plaza location of his restaurant Jaxx is now closed, and the restaurant chain, Zanzibar, has also closed permanently.
He said the restaurants cannot survive on take-away alone, and in many instances are operating at 10 per cent. “Assume your business is doing $20,000 a day, if it’s a big restaurant, then all you’re getting is $2,000. You can’t cover (expenses).”
He said he sympathises with the Government, and understood that the situation was not easy, but he wants for officials to consult more with the community.
“We don’t depend on government grants (and) subsidies. Our position is that they have a big role to keep the economy going, (but) people are going to be out of work (and) there will be uprisings.” He said he is also concerned a loss of jobs may lead to a rise in crime.
“The depression these people are going through. Even us as owners are going through it. It’s a whole lifetime we’ve spent to build our businesses and be part of TT and now we have to watch a situation where we have to shut down.
"It is very hard to start back when we’ve shut down.”
Chin suggested Government consider relieving restaurant owners of VAT for three months. “That will help a lot.”