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Mandeville operators lament slow sales as bars reopen

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Bar operators in this south-central town who were eagerly awaiting the reopening of their businesses are now lamenting the need for extended opening hours amid restrictions imposed by the Government to control the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Although some bars remained closed yesterday, others were open for business and adhering to the restrictions, but there was not much to cheer about.

“Nutten nah gwan. Everything feels like the bars still closed. Bar is not really for daytime [as] during the day people gone to work. Good hours [for business] is from 6 o' clock in the evening onwards, but they want us to close by 7:00 pm [until Sunday when the curfew takes effect at 3:00 pm]. The man who goes to work is the man that comes to the bar after work to come unwind, drink two beer or him rum and go home,” owner of Vinco's at Fridays at Nashville, Vincent Coley, told the Jamaica Observer.

“The other problem is really social distancing, which I figure the Government is trying to use to see how they can [keep a lid on the spread] of the virus. The curfew time will have to be relaxed some more,” he added.

Coley believes, however, that the Government is trying to be balanced in reopening bars while allowing more people in churches, but thinks the new protocols for bars will make it difficult for those in the business.

“Right now, some people prefer to go buy liquor at the wholesale and go home and drink it because it is hard for you to come to a bar and stand up round the bar with a drink of a cue of rum,” he said.

He has made space at his establishment for three patrons to be seated on the outside.

“Just for the distance you have three people sitting outside, but inside you can't have no more than four and when the people don't decide to leave, everybody basically decide to chill. Is a hard task. I don't see the difference because I don't see the virus going down, because we going to have to live with it like AIDS. Some people will get it, some people will not,” he said.

On lower Caledonia Road bartender Tahisha Uter lamented the slow pace of business yesterday.

“Nobody nuh have no money to spend; things slow. Mi really nuh like some of the things dem a impose. Them talk about the sleeveless, but mi never know a so it strict to even the attire. From morning I don't even mek $3,000 yet… to how mi see it we just have to work with it still,” she said.

“To the hours that them have to open it really hard on them [bar operators]. It nuh profitable but if is the protocol we have to follow because of this thing [virus], then we have to adhere. But we don't want to be captive either,” patron Leroy Smith told the Observer.

At Annie's Pub on Caledonia Court Plaza, one patron was more philosophical about the reopening of bars despite the restrictions.

“A long time people nuh have a drink and we have to work with wah gwaan because we never have nuh bar fi get nuh drink when dem lockdown,” said the patron who identified himself by his alias “Peddybling”.

Owner of Annie's Pub, Ann-Marie Cells, told the Observer that she was not comfortable with the restrictions.

“[We are not comfortable with] guidelines that stipulate the opening hours of bars. We have to pay at least $10,000 for bartenders and when the landlord sees the bars open we have to give them the full month's rent,” she said.

A joint task force has been deployed to inspect bars across Manchester and field supervisor at the Manchester Social Development Commission (SDC) Oren Osbourne told the Observer that more than one dozen bars were inspected by his team.

“We inspected about 14 [bars] in Mandeville, Royal Flat and Comfort. We have another team in Christiana. The joint team comprises the SDC and the property tax unit. We check to see how compliant the bars are, to see if they are following the protocols. We also check for their spirit and trade licences. We collect the data to send into Kingston for an assessment to be done,” he said.


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