Gaston Graham has operated Val’s Bar in Matelot Village since 2012. Val is his nickname, so much so that villagers rarely call him by his given name.
The bar has been a popular liming spot for villagers visitors to Matelot. After all, Val's is one of only two bars there.
But like many bar owners, Graham has been struggling to keep business afloat since the imposition of covid19 restrictions in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.
Experiencing a sharp decline in sales, Graham is now reconsidering the bar’s future.
He told Business Day, “The villagers used to come out and support. Now, they sometimes come out now and then because of the restrictions and how no one can sit down.
“Since March last year, when covid19 restrictions were implemented, everything went down and it’s still down. You notice this is a bar and nobody not even here,” he said.
However, he commends villagers for following covid19 protocols and understands that the financial situation of some may have changed which is why they no longer frequent the bar.
Thankfully, Graham’s livelihood isn’t solely dependent on the bar as he works with the Ministry of Works and Transport.
Yet, he still considers the decline of business to be unfortunate and is sympathetic with other bar owners.
“I do feel it for other people who run bars and doesn’t own the property especially if they have to pay rent. I’m fortunate that I only have to pay my water and electricity bills, but my heart does go out to those in the business, and they have to shut down.”
Over the Easter weekend, Graham said, there was a temporary boost in sales as more people visited the village on road trips. But still the number of people visiting the bar wasn’t comparable to other Easter weekends before covid19.
“People were passing but most didn’t come in and again, the river was closed which is one of the main attractions for visitors up here.
“You find when people come up on this side (to the village) they come equip with their stuff, so they won’t have to buy things.”
For now, Graham is considering other ways he can use the property the bar is located on, including building a small guesthouse, if the decline in business continues.
As for the recently reimposed restrictions on bars, casinos and restaurants, Graham said sales will continue to drop but while it is unfortunate, it is necessary.
“I am fully in agreement with it (the new restrictions) because citizens were not doing their part in reducing the spread of the virus."