Owners on new restrictions: 'Businesses will only survive by God’s grace'

Shoppers on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, on Monday. Photo by Roger Jacob
Shoppers on Charlotte Street, Port of Spain, on Monday. Photo by Roger Jacob

For many it is a delicate balancing act between lives and livelihoods. Further restrictions announced by the Prime Minister to slow the recent covid19 spike has seen the closure of non-essential retail businesses until May 23.

On Monday Dr Rowley announced the discontinuation of all food services, all retail non-essential closed and essential opening from 6 am to 8 pm.

Newsday spoke to some business owners, managers and employees in Port of Spain about how they felt about the measures and what does it means for their business.

An employee at a shoe store on Frederick Street, Port of Spain, Sharicka Carr said it was going to badly affect her income.

“I will be going home with no source of income and I have responsibilities.

Carr said she has a daughter and has to provide food, pampers, wipes and milk.

She is uncertain as to whether business is going to recover after this new set of restrictions. She said after the first lockdown it was difficult to recover and now the business might be permanently closed.

Popular home decor company Mode Alive at its Frederick Street location said it was taking a novel approach to the situation by giving their employees projects to do in the store and allowing them to earn some form of an income.

Supervisor Melissa Joseph said, “Business has been slow right through since the first lockdown and when we reopened business it never caught back to how it is supposed to be.”

However, Joseph said businesses have to comply because TT does not want to get to a state where everything falls apart.

She said Mode Alive will not send any of its workers home but instead has a rotation where employees are given projects to complete in the store.

“We will not open for the public but where we have little work to do and rearrange, where we will come and so things. They will be paid for a little three days and that will sustain them until we come back out fully,” Joseph said.

She could not say how things would be once businesses are allowed to operate again. Only time could tell, she said.

An employee at Bridal and Curtain Shop Vereta Frederick said the new measures should have been expected.

“I was expecting it because of what was going on and what I was seeing. And the behaviour of our people, Trinidadians on the whole.”

Frederick said it is a pandemic and not just related to TT.

She said the latest measures and restrictions were a case of, “Peter paying for Paul and Paul will continue to pay for all.”

Frederick said it would be hard on people’s pockets but to move forward, TT had to make sacrifices.

For Frederick, being alive was more important than being able to come to work and die. She has worked at the store for 11 years.

Owner of Bridal and Curtain Shop George Thannous said TT will survive. While TT has a lot of economic problems and business is bad, it is important for the country to follow Rowley’s directives.

“It is good for health and as he said we would have problems if we stay at that level of infection.

“I think it is good for health but bad for business. But health is more important than the business.”

He said he would see what happens economically after the three weeks. Thannous said, however, if the restrictions are prolonged, things will be very tough.

Owner of Primus Variety Store, Frederick Street, Atiba Primus said he believed the country was being punished for the Government’s incompetence.

“The more illegals they have coming in the country and they don’t do anything about it, this will always be the outcome: lockdown

“They keep blaming us as if we are the problem but before they realise we did not have before and we keep getting weird numbers, high numbers. It is as if they are trying to punish us because they are not holding up their end of the bargain by keeping the borders safe,” he said.

Primus said he does not think his business will survive but plans to move his operations online.

He added that the Government needed to assist people as a lot of people had mortgages, car notes and other expenses.

Raju Trivedi who owns and runs Raju’s Jewellery and Gift store at Frederick Street said his business was suffering but he understood the Government’s decision based on the recent spikes. He has been in business for the past 30 years.

His employee Jenny Brown said the recent measures were hard and will affect her.

“It is a loss of income for me and we have bills to pay just like everyone else,” she said.

Brown said TT was in a tricky situation because if people are dead, they would be unable to spend the money but people still had to live because if people do not have money how were they going to live?

She said TT, however, needed the measures at this time because a few “harden” people made it difficult for everyone else.

“Because of a few the mass had to suffer.”

Brown believes businesses will only survive by God’s grace.


"Owners on new restrictions: ‘Businesses will only survive by God’s grace’"

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