The owner of the popular restaurant Jenny’s on the Boulevard, Jennifer Dan-Sharma is “embarrassed” and “humiliated” after eight to 12 heavily armed police officers visited the Cipriani Boulevard, Port-of-Spain restaurant on Friday around 10.15 pm to warn her about the need for customers to leave the restaurant by 10.30 pm.
This incident happened one year after T&T discovered its first COVID-19 case and the subsequent lockdowns and other restrictions that occurred that has devastated the business community.
Sharma, who was still shaken by the incident on Saturday morning, told the Sunday Guardian that by 9:30 pm their procedure at Jenny’s is that they ring the bell to indicate they are closing off by 10 pm and that they follow all the COVID-19 related regulations regarding their business operations.
She explained that it was not the first time the police have entered her business place concerning closing at the right time.
“It’s not the first time. The worst was not too long ago, around 9 to 9:15, five officers walked into the fine dining with huge guns around them, asking customers what they were drinking. They told them fruit punch/non-alcoholic wine etc. They then said ‘like Jenny training she customers what to say boi.’ It was intimidating, disrespectful and embarrassing to say the least,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
“They are the same community offers that we sponsor, assist and respect. Is this how we must be treated as business people? Especially when we are doing honest, proper and lawful things. Is this the law that officers can just walk through while families are having dinner with children? While even following protocols?”
She also said that it seems as if other businesses in the area that break COVID-18 regulations are ignored by the police, yet the police pick on her while she is strictly following regulations.
Her son, Jonathan, who is the Chief Operating Officer of the business, said he hopes that the regulations should be spelt out more clearly so that there would be no ambiguity as to when people should be leaving businesses places and other details concerning COVID-19 regulations.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to the Police Service’s communications unit but did not get a response.
Coping with COVID-19
Like other prominent businesspeople, Sharma too has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Explaining how she was able to survive over the last year, she said, “There were different levels of changes. There was a total lockdown, then there was the time when there was curbside pickup. That worked well for us as we became very creative, we sold alcohol and brought the bar into the kitchen. We had drinks on the go and we had ads. We gave discounts of ten per cent to the police, army and fire services. Also, we gave 30 per cent discounts to the Government.”
Giving such large discounts to customers cut into her profits, but she believes she made the right decision as it was her way of supporting different stakeholders in the national community during these difficult times.
Sharma also said that despite the tough times that they have faced they have avoided cutting staff.
“Rather than working a full week, we allowed staff to work four days. At least my workers had money to take home. These are some of the things we did to hold the business and staff together. Compared to some other business, I think that we did very well.”
She hopes that large sections of the population would be vaccinated very soon so that the business and life, in general, could return to normalcy.
“A lot of businesses were closed down, especially on the Avenue and those are people who could not pay their mortgages and so on. Very few survived. The situation would only normalise once everyone is vaccinated.”