Bars that do not comply with the COVID-19 guidelines for reopening, will not be supplied with alcoholic products from today.
This is one of the measures announced by the Trinidad and Tobago Beverage and Alcohol Alliance (TTBAA) at a news conference yesterday, as it seeks to stave off any a reclosure of the industry.
“The TTBAA, comprised of 90 manufacturers, producers, distributors and marketers of alcohol in T&T, have taken the decision that for bars that are non-compliant as of tomorrow (Monday), the bodies that constitute the TTBA Alliance – the likes of the Caribs and Brydens and others—we are going to withhold delivery and supplies of those entities,” TTBAA chairman Dr Patrick Antoine.
The news conference followed a stern warning by the prime minister, that the government would close bars again if reports of breaches continued.
Videos circulated over the weekend, showing bars jam-packed and there were reports of people “hiding” in bars after the 10 pm closing time.
“Where bars and bar owners continue to be non-compliant, we will support without reservation, fully, the closure of these bars by the State,” Antoine added.
He pointed out that over 75,000 people work directly or indirectly in the alcohol industry and said that they could not allow the few errant ones to affect the many who rely on the industry for their livelihoods.
The Bar Owners Association (BOA) and the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association (THRTA), were also represented at yesterday’s news conference.
“We cannot endure another 90 days of a shutdown. That would entirely condemn the industry as we know it,” interim president of the BOA, Teron Mohan said.
According to him, there are 5,000 bars in T&T, directly employing 20,000 people with as many as 100,000 indirectly employed in the industry. The financial blow of another shutdown, he said, would be “fatal.”
The spokesmen said such closures would severely affect the livelihoods of the ordinary workers, adding that this is why they came together Saturday night to agree on some immediate measures.
“We are prepared not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk,” Antoine said.
That walk includes working closely with the police to address the bad bars, to “nip it in the bud.”
Also, as of today, a hotline will be in place to allow people to complain about those entities which are breaching the guidelines.
The hotline number is 277-7378 or 277-SERV.
The TTBAA will also spend money to help with compliance.
“We will be supporting the training modules for the operators and employees by paying for the training of the enterprises that indicate that they have a difficulty,” Antoine said.
He estimates that between 1,000 and 1,500 bars will benefit from training and certification.
“Everything you believed before in respect of operating a bar in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is completely changed,” said president of the THRTA, Brian Frontin.
“Our call is to the owners. The window for compliance is now extremely small and rapidly closing without a complete change in behaviour,” he added.
Bars reopened last Monday and during the week the government amended the health regulations to mandate that they could not reopen their doors until 8 am, after closing at 10 pm the night before.
The TTBAA, meanwhile, was planning last week, to write the government to ask for bars to open one hour later until 11 pm and to allow those with bigger floor spaces, the leeway to accommodate more than 25 people at a time.
That, Antoine said, will not happen now, because of the actions of the errant bar operators.