THE cinema and restaurant/bar managers who Newsday spoke to expressed confidence that their premises could successfully re-open on Monday in line with the Government's designation of leisure spots as safe zones for vaccinated patrons and staff to try to curb the spread of covid19.
The Prime Minister allowed the in-house dining at restaurants and bars, plus the operation of casinos, cinemas, gyms, better shops, theatres such as Queen's Hall and NAPA and SAPA, addressing a briefing last month at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann's. However bars and restaurants cannot yet serve alcohol but just food and soft drinks.
However any such establishment failing to maintain a vaccinated-only policy faces a $25,000 fine under new laws being proposed by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, while a person presenting a forged a vaccination card to gain entry will face a $5,000 fine.
CinemaOne CEO Ingrid Jahra said cinemas were keen to re-open, saying, "All the cineplexes will be ready for Monday. Estate 101 will be ready for the weekend."
Asked what percentage of staff were vaccinated, she said, "All staff on shift are fully vaccinated, as in compliance with the health ordinance. "
She said that given the current curfew the opening times will depend on the chosen movies but the last movie will be shown for the latest at 6.45 pm.
Would cinemas put extra precautions in place to be a safe zone?
"We will have to have additional staff to engage patrons before entering our premises to ensure only vaccinated patrons are in the cinema spaces."
Jahra was pleased to be reopening. "It's a start to reopening. We have exciting new content this time."
However she had more suggestions for cinema operations.
"It would be much better if the 50 percent occupancy restrictions are lifted as everyone within the safe zone bubble would be vaccinated."
She hoped the curfew time would be pushed back to a later hour.
"As a 10 pm curfew shortens the day and as movie-going is an evening pastime, a 12 midnight curfew would be much better and allow for a safe spacing out of the movie times.
"We all will continue to observe the mask-up, to socially distance and to wash our hands and also do the other business covid protocols."
Kathleen Sammy, general manager of the 519 Restaurant and Bar in the C3 Centre in San Fernando, was also upbeat, talking to Newsday on Sunday.
"519 is a safe-zone so we are very excited to be re-opening tomorrow. We are cleaning and sanitising the whole restaurant from top to bottom. We are also washing and shining the glasses in preparation. We know we cannot serve alcohol in the restaurant but we can serve alcohol to go.
"Because members of the public who are not vaccinated cannot come into the restaurant, we are doing curbside delivery for the people who are unvaccinated. Children under 12 are not allowed in the restaurant and we will be checking immunisation cards together with IDs of patrons who wish to enter the establishment."
Were all staff vaccinated? "Our staff are fully vaccinated, I'm very proud to say. This is one of the first restaurants to have a fully-vaccinated staff. We were prepared when this came. When the Prime Minister announced that only vaccinated people can come out to work, we were fully prepared for that."
What were her feelings and hopes over the exclusion of children?
"I know right now that the Government is working for children from five years old and up to be fully vaccinated, so hopefully when that policy comes out people would vaccinate their children so they can come out and enjoy the dining experience with their whole family."
Asked the mood among staff, she said most workers were very happy at Dr Rowley's announcement letting vaccinated come out to dine.
"We have been closed for so long in this pandemic. From 2020 we were on lockdown a lot of times. What the public fails to understand is that we, the restaurant industry, were under lockdown before the other places like hairdressers salons and stores and places like that, We opened after them, so it takes a toll on the employees not being able to work." She said although the restaurant offered a curbside service, not all staff had been deployed to this. "If anyone should get covid19, we have a shift system of team A and team B to protect staff." Staff must wear masks.
Sammy said 519 was offering a lot of special deals to attract back patrons.
"We have a lot of discounted offers on the meals and a lot of two-for-ones on the meals. We have two-for-one chicken tenders and two-for-one wings. We've done a lot of curbside specials to keep going and because of the rise in prices we have to go back to our regular prices."
"What we'd ask customers to do is once you know you are coming to dine in, please walk with your ID card and vaccination card in order for us to let you in." She asked patrons walk with masks so that if they were leaving their table to go to the wash room they could be masked. "Once everybody does what they have to do we could avoid spreading covid and look forward to extending the hours also." (With reporting by Jensen La Vende and Marvin Hamilton)