GLASSES clinked for the first time in months on Monday as many, almost exclusively vaccinated, took to prime venues in and around Port-of-Spain.
People turned out en masse months after restaurants and bars shut up shop. They were there merely for the experience, for the company in a public setting, and it showed on their faces.
Francis Oliver, manager of Buzo, a popular and subtly ornate Italian restaurant in Newtown, Port of Spain, told Newsday its reception to reopening was incredible, if not for a 50 per cent capacity restriction.
“We lost some tables but no less the setting,” Oliver said.
“We can’t do anymore.”
The tables were spaced the requisite six feet apart. But given the layout of the restaurant, much of the floor, prime real estate, was wasted.
“Where there were tables for four, we would’ve had to close it to two persons to create that space of six-foot distance.”
Asked about the restaurant’s ability to recoup the losses after the lengthy closure, in addition to a limited capacity, compounded with vaccine restrictions, the manager said, “There’s no way of telling about the losses in terms of a dollar amount and we don’t really know what we’re looking into as well with this reopening (whether) it made sense.
Without trying to stir any pot, he suggested the people who came out to dine were not vaccine-hesitant but were eager to return to a life of normalcy.
They indeed did appear so as faces glowed.
Just after 9 pm, Newsday visited Jenny’s on the Boulevard, a staple of Cipriani Boulevard for 30-plus years. and spoke with owner Jenny Sharma, who mingled with guests and staff as they left. She lives nearby and said she expected to be among the last to leave the premises.
“We restructured in the event that people do not get vaccinated because a lot aren’t.
Sharma is vaccinated and said her staff, too, is vaccinated against covid19.”
Some of her staff, of course, had second thoughts about the process, but she said she reasoned with them.
“(I’ve told them) people are dying from covid more than they are dying from the vaccine (which) was created (to combat) covid. So, it’s up to you, no pressure.”
She said they mostly listened to her reasoning and suggested other employers adopt strategies of education and reasoning.
Jenny’s, as it’s commonly referred, was fortunate not to suffer a similar fate to perhaps hundreds of restaurants, bars, clubs, and any combination of the aforementioned since late April when the Prime Minister announced a series of serious measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Thousands have been tossed on the breadline but, fortunately, Jenny’s still has the vast majority of her dozens of staff, which she said is largely down to diversifying the take-away experience, which was never really its strong point.
“With the 50 per cent reduction in dining, I think we’ll still do very well because the seating accommodation is astronomical. We have outdoor and indoor dining, then we have private dining. Then we have take-out, delivery, WiEat food drop, so there are a lot of things, even for people who are unvaccinated.”
Sharma’s best customers, she said, called to express a need for freedom, with some booking their reservation weeks in advance, or in one case, even after the birthday passed while the restrictions were in place.
“A lot just want to get out.”
She said business will pick up by Wednesday and boom by Friday.
As for the movies, which also reopened for business on Monday, the late movie started at 6.30 pm, with little fanfare.
Police were present to screen for the unvaccinated. Rather than months, it seemed like years since the cinemas were shut and now few knew it reopened, with the arcade, lobby, and concessions barren well before closing time.