Barkeepers’ and Owners’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago president Satesh Moonasar

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Since COVID-19 reached T&T’s shores, bars have been subjected to some of the strictest regulations by the Government to help control its spread.

Today will make it one year since they have been operating under these conditions and according to the Barkeepers’ and Owners’ Association of T&T (BOATT) president Satesh Moonasar, it’s not feasible for the sector to continue like this.

“If we have to continue under the same restrictions it’s going to be disastrous for the industry,” he said yesterday.

“We have been trying and patiently trying to cope with the present situation…running off of what savings we have. Some people have already depleted everything and reach the point of bankruptcy and as time goes by, more and more of that situation will continue to happen.”

He added, “When the outbreak began on March 12, 2020, bars were ordered to close within a week. They remained closed until June when they were allowed to open, but were prohibited from in-house service. While it was welcomed, it was quickly realised it was unfavourable for many bars with the cost of opening outweighing its revenue. This has also led bars who chose to open to reduce the number of staff at least by half and for employees retained, many are working for half their usual salary.

“People are basically using whatever savings they have to try and make ends meet but at present time…the doors in the bars may be opened, but that does not necessarily mean you are generating any type of income to sustain yourself or sustain your employees.”

Moonasar said an ideal situation would be for a return to normalcy but given the threat of the disease, Moonasar said allowing bars to resume non-alcoholic in-house service would be a good middle ground in the short-term.

Noting it’s the same allowance being made to restaurants and casinos, he said, “Basically, we’re asking for the same opportunity to have patrons in our establishment without the consumption of alcohol and be allowed to have something to eat, play on the amusement machines and with that we could probably have a better way of coping.

“(Currently) the laws in the health ordinance is you are not to provide seating or any amenities for consumption.”

Moonasar said the association met with Ministry of Health officials on December 4 to discuss the proposition, to which they received a favourable response.

“At that point in time, they said they didn’t have any problems from a medical perspective (or) from a health perspective – that they would give us equal opportunity that is happening in a restaurant or casino, they don’t have any problem with that happening in a bar,” he said.

However, he noted they are yet to see those words manifest into a reality. Moonasar said the association is willing to work with authorities and officials in any way necessary to ensure the survival of the sector.