Excited, hopeful and uncertain.
These will be the varying emotions facing restaurant and bar operators today as their establishments resume in-house service in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re extremely happy that bars are reopening on Monday thanks to the Government and Mr Rowley because we were locked down for over three months. Thank God we don’t have rent to pay, so we were able to maintain the staff that will be coming out tomorrow,” Tim Lumkin, owner of Cooking Vibez Restaurant and Bar, said on Sunday.
On Sunday, Lumkin oversaw last-minute renovations at the Carlos Street, Woodbrook bar, which had been ongoing refurbishment during the lockdown period. He explained that they were also preparing adjustments to fall in line with the designated regulations for bars.
“This activity has been going on for a little while now, getting ready for the reopening. During the lockdown we decided to do some renovation, we’re doing some new flooring, decking. We did some renovation on the inside,” he said.
“Well, we have to follow the guidelines that people should be six feet apart, the table will be six feet away. I think certain tables can accommodate ten people, so we will be ready for that.”
Lumkin said based on feedback, he was expecting a busy opening day.
“We’ve been getting phone calls by the mile, waiting for the reopening and they making bookings already,” he said.
At Brooklyn Bar, obliquely opposite Cookin’ Vibez, last-minute preparation was also underway, but the bar’s operator, who asked not to be named, was far more subdued with expectations. He said he did not expect a major crowd today, apart from the few who would like to experience having a drink in a bar after the three-month layoff.
Interim president of the Bar Owners/Operators Association of Trinidad & Tobago Teron Mohan meanwhile admitted the membership had mixed views about the reopening period.
“My bar personally and a couple of us, we are up and ready to go. We finalised our arrangements up to yesterday (Saturday) and the necessary improvements, all the gears for staff. So tomorrow (Monday) morning we can try and get started,” he said.
“Some of the other bars who were in a more difficult position than we were, they are facing difficulty in restarting and that comes in terms of the affordability of the improvements, the affordability to restock. Because many of them are still left with old goods on their hands that they cannot be exchanged from the various distributors. So they are having a restocking issue which they are kind of looking for solutions to figure out.”
As for what crowds he expected, Mohan admitted it was hard to say.
“It might be too early to say, it might be difficult to get a grasp on it,” Mohan said.
“I know personally, from keeping in touch with some of my patrons and even some of my friends, they are looking forward to the reopening. They are in anticipation of being able to going back to their favourite watering hole. So the excitement is there.”
At MovieTowne, workers told Guardian Media that preparation had been ongoing for much of the past week. Sneeze guards have been installed at the concession stalls, while the cinemas were cleaned and sanitised. However, the restaurant and bars on the compound aren’t going to fully reopen today.
Supervisor of Trader Jacks restaurant and bar, Samantha Mondezie, said the restaurant will not open until Wednesday.
She explained that much of their traffic was tied to the cinema, so instead, they would take the next couple days to bring the restaurant in line with regulations.
Mondezie said the pick-up sales had not been great but the store had been able to keep all their staff, adding business would determine how the rostering would work going forward.
“We know that it is not going to be the same, I am hoping that all our staff are able to come out,” she said.
An official at Jaxx International restaurant said they too would be closed until midweek as they prepare for dine-in services.