FLASHBACK: Friends lime at The Avenue Pub House last June. (Image: ANISTO ALVES)

The T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce is “disappointed” that the Government did not accept their recommendations to relax the restrictions on bars and restaurants. The Chamber also indicated its willingness to meet to discuss any additional measures required to alleviate any apprehensions to facilitate reopening.

Reyaz Ahamad, president, T&T Chamber of Commerce told Guardian Media by phone that relaxing the restrictions on this sector would assist many lower-income people who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While some sectors have been reopened, there are many businesses in the food and beverage sector, among others, who remain severely affected by the full or partial closure, some for over seven months,” the Chamber stated in a media release.

During a press conference on Saturday in Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said bars and restaurants will have to wait another two weeks to know when they can return to in-house dining.

The Chamber said that it was a challenging financial environment for many businesses and so it is crucial that the Government target the appropriate financial support for tax-compliant businesses due to the debilitating impact this is having on them.

“Our Government plays a vital role in setting the conditions essential to recovery and strengthening the economy.”

Meanwhile, Terron Mohan, president, Bar owners and Operators Association expressed disappointment as they have already incurred millions of dollars in losses.

He said it was “sad” that the Government did not take the decision to relax restrictions on the operation of bars.

“All we can do is hope for the very near future. We hoped so today but sadly that was not so. Millions of dollars have been lost in our sector and over 100 bars closed,” he said.

The activities of bars and other businesses were first restricted in March after the country’s first COVID-19 case.

Peter George, CEO, Trent Restaurant Group which includes restaurants like Trotters, Buzo, Amara and Blue Star Dinner, told Guardian Media that his business is now “on its knees” because of the decision that the Government has made.

“We are going into eight full months of this lockdown. This is no longer catastrophic. It is worse. I have nothing to lose. Tell me you can go to the beach with rum and drinks but you can’t go to a restaurant that practice all the protocols? What sense does that make?”

He also asked if the Government official who makes decisions understands how businesses are run.

He said his next step will be to close restaurants and send home workers.

“I expect two more restaurants to close and more staff will be sent home. I can’t do this any more.”

In a statement two weeks ago, Trent Restaurant Ltd said they now face the unfortunate economic reality that unless restrictions on restaurants and associated sectors such as hospitality, entertainment and bars are not relaxed as a matter of urgency they will have no choice to close some of their restaurants. The last eight months have seen a devastating 70 per cent contraction in business and they no longer have the resources to keep their 300 staff employed.