Rishard Khan
[email protected]

The Barkeepers and Owners’ Association of T&TT has been in discussion with the Ministry of Health to resume in-house service of alcohol, safely.

But while a final decision is yet to be made, the association is expecting to meet with the minister and his team in the coming weeks to continue the discussions. Bars and other businesses in the entertainment and recreation industry were hit the hardest when the pandemic began almost a year ago and have been subject to some of the strictest public health measures.

Since August 17, the consumption of alcohol has been prohibited on the premises of bars. Though an improvement from the measures enforced during the first “lockdown” period where they were prevented from opening altogether, it still dealt a blow to the industry’s profitability with hundreds of bars choosing to remain closed during this time.

But as the local outbreak plateaued with a hard-earned low daily case average during the last quarter of 2020, the association met with Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to discuss how the industry would move forward when the time comes.

“So after this session of no alcohol being allowed to sell, when we do get a chance to reopen, that is what the discussion was about. To actually have a safe reopening so that customers can come in and feel safe and enjoy their favourite alcoholic beverage in a very COVID free environment,” one of the association’s directors, Anil Maraj, told Guardian Media.

Among the proposals put forth, Maraj said, were that bars be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity and to have no more than six people at a table. He said they suggested patrons also only remove masks while eating or drinking- a similar measure as currently enforced at restaurants.

He said the officials heard their proposals and agreed on it- though nothing has yet been set in stone. Maraj said the association expects to meet with the team once again by early February to further its discussions.

On December 22, the association also met with the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert to discuss financial aid for the sector as well as its employees.

“The main discussion was with respect to the Prime Minister’s statement that he made of some grants being made available for the business sector- the bars and its employees,” Maraj said.

“So we worked out some guidelines to how the bar employees are going to access these grants as well as the SME loans for the business owners themselves. The criteria of the loan did not suit some of the necessary requirements.”

He said a list was sent to Minister Imbert earlier this month and the association is hoping for a response in the first week of February. In a release yesterday, the association also commended the Promoter’s Association and various restauranteurs for coming forward and making know the pandemic’s effects on their industries.

Maraj encouraged other stakeholders within the entertainment and recreation industry to come forward with their concerns and have meaningful discussions with the authorities.