An employee of Universal Bar, St James carry delivered stocks into the Bar during a delivery yesterday.

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After just one week of being allowed to reopen, bars are now having their hours of operation reduced following what officials called “disturbing” reports of mass congregations during a time when the country is trying to maintain gains made in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a Ministry of Health virtual press conference yesterday, both the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, and Minister of National Security Stuart Young expressed concern over the reports they have received; especially in the days leading up to the weekend.

As a result, Young said bars will now only be allowed to operate within the hours of 8 am and 8 pm under the new regulation which was expected to be published on Monday.

He suggested bars implement and enforce a “last call” system at 7.30 pm to ensure closure at 8 pm.

He cautioned that this is only the first step in rolling back the reopening for that sector and warns that the police will be keeping a closer eye on these establishments.

“A warning was given over the weekend by the Prime Minister and Minister Deyalsingh. We have taken this step to give another opportunity­not only to the bar owners and operators but more so the patrons and the persons going to the bars and congregating on the roads, pavements outside of the bars,” he said.

He said if bars do not comply with the stipulated maximum of 25 patrons or the opening hours, they will face the $50,000 fine and six months imprisonment for breaching the public health regulations.

They can also be closed if they don’t adhere to the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health, he also noted.

Restaurants with bar licenses won’t be affected by the change and can continue to operate until 10 pm. However, Young cautioned that they aren’t exempted from similar action if the guidelines aren’t adhered to.

“Right now we’re allowing you to continue to serve until 10 pm but if we see a continuation of behaviour or the behaviour move to these restaurants who have bars inside, we would also roll back on that category of persons,” he cautioned.

And although he did not explain in any certain terms what the next step would be should these warnings go unheeded, he said: “The government would not hesitate to do what is necessary based on the advice we get from our medical experts.”

Young commended the decision taken by the Trinidad and Tobago Beverage and Alcohol Alliance (TTBAA) to withhold the supply of alcoholic beverages to bars that don’t comply with the guidelines.