While the government continues to deny drinkers the privilege of sipping on a cold brew inside their favourite pubs, some bar owners in San Fernando agree with the decision to extend the public health regulation against the industry.
Under the Public Health Ordinance (CoVid-19 Regulations 2020), it is illegal for bars to allow patrons to consume their beverages indoors. The Regulations only allow a takeaway service.
There have been strong lobbies from the Bar Owners and Operators Association (BOATT) for the government to ease or lift this restriction. However, last Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the congregation that takes place where people serve alcohol was a deterrent to lifting the restriction.
Rowley explained said that when people consume alcohol, it reduces their level of responsibility.
As Guardian Media moved through the Southern City, there were several bars with closed doors. For those that opened, the common feature was men, middle-age to elderly, standing in the front with their drinks. High fives, masks under chins; it was as though the virus was not a concern for some.
“We don’t have security to maintain order. I have to go outside to remind some patrons to keep their masks on,” Kathy Ann Olton said yesterday.
Olton operates Machismo’s Bar along Coffee Street, a popular spot in one of San Fernando’s busiest area. She said after about three beers, some patrons lose control and disregard the regulations.
“Financially, the restrictions are bad for business, but we are not ready. They (customers) come inside to buy and go outside. Plenty of them, you have to beg them to leave. They have their mask down, and you have to remind them to take their mask down to take a sip and put it back up. They find it is nonsense. I want the place to open back, but I want to live too.”
At King’s Wharf, Tara Ramroop said she had to retrench her staff at her St Peter’s Bar as they have been operating at a loss for months. Pre-COVID-19, the bar would see between 300-400 customers daily, but since then, sales are below 100 per day.
But even without a profit, she fears COVID-19 most and agrees with the government that lives trumps profits.
“I agree with it because of how COVID is spreading. When some people drink their rum, even if you tell them to separate themselves, they don’t listen,” Ramroop said.
The restrictions did not affect all bars the same way. Kendell Bourgeois, who operates Ose’ says his business did not change. With a small seating capacity at his bar, Bourgeois said that even before COVID-19, people would usually buy their drinks and leave and stand outside.
“Business is still the same way. Other businessmen on De Avenue (Ariapita Avenue) will have a problem, but where I am here, people come, get their drinks and go. Nothing much changed except for the police just keep coming and running people as they stand up outside,” Bourgeois said.
He admitted that it is hard for many other bars in the district, noting that by 7 pm, San Fernando has limited activity. He believes it is because a lot of people are now unemployed.
For years retired photographer Tony Mohammed would patronise Ose’, purchasing a beer and a pack of red skin peanuts daily. It is how he enjoys life, and he waits for the day he could resume that tradition comfortably.
Standing in front of Ose’, Mohammed said that if people adhere to the guidelines that bars used before the second lockdown in August, operations could be smooth.
However, he agreed that not everyone was responsible, and some would break the rules and put others at risk.
“I am 60 years old, and I never expected to see this thing in my lifetime. Eight months in and people are still not understanding the seriousness of it,” Mohammed said.