Bars pour scorn on lockdown

Bar operators in the Corporate Area and some rural towns across Jamaica are agitating against a total shutdown of their services as the Government rolls out stringent measures, starting today, to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on Monday that all bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues should be closed for a week, an initiative that is reviewable after day five.

However, bar operators our news team canvassed have argued that their operations – especially for standard-size drinking pubs – rarely accommodate 20 patrons at any one time, predicting deep losses to their bottom line.

The Government has said that among the measures, customers should exercise social distancing and comply with the ban on gatherings exceeding 20 people.

Sheldon Picart, who operates a bar in Stony Hill, St Andrew, said that even before the virus was confirmed in Jamaica, he has been taking necessary precautions.

NO CONSULTATION

Picart, who said that he has imposed strict sanitisation protocols at his bar, lamented that the consultation was not sought with stakeholders before the new ground rules were issued.

“The Government should have called a meeting with stakeholders before coming to this decision, because at no given time 20 persons are at my bar, or most bars,” he told The Gleaner.

Citing the tourism sector’s appeal for a bailout, Picart said that the Government should pitch in and cushion the financial blow to small businesses like his.

Kimberly Sinclair, a bar owner located in the district of Temple Hall, is also feeling the pinch.

Many operators of bars are involved in weekly round robins that have also been affected islandwide. A round robin is an arranged sequence of patronage among a select group of venues.

Sinclair said that her bar rarely has as many as 20 patrons.

“The bar slow from the virus reach out here. I only have three customers yesterday (Monday) and none so far as yet (yesterday).”

She has also implemented mechanisms to mitigate against the contraction of COVID-19.

Even in the inner city, the cry from bar operators is the same. Jacqueline Powell operates a bar in the central Kingston community of Allman Town – where there’s a drinking parlour on almost every corner.

Powell said she would comply with the lockdown order and would seek to maximise sales up to closing yesterday.

“Local bars like mine in the inner city, you won’t find whole heap of people a come in,” she told The Gleaner. “You nah find 20 man inna one bar unless you a keep a gathering, party or round robin.”

There are 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica.


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