Businesswoman calls for adjustments to restaurant guidelines

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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

The proprietor of a popular entertainment entity is calling on health officials to be more considerate regarding the enforcement of health and safety protocols, especially given the size of individual properties.

Valerie Hodge, the manager of Shirley Heights Lookout is suggesting that the “one size fits all” rule should not be applied to every business.

Hodge issued the appeal on live radio yesterday, as she recounted the dilemma she faced on Sunday which left her with no other option but to cancel bookings, discard food, and refund monies to several clients who were hoping to visit her establishment for entertainment purposes.

“I think that we need to do the work and start to look at properties individually. This one shoe fits all thing is simply not working,” Hodge said.

The businesswoman explained that following the reopening of the economy in June, she worked closely with an official from the Central Board of Health (CBH) to ensure that certain adjustments were made in order for the business to operate based on the guidelines that had been implemented.

She said on any given day, her outdoor establishment can comfortably accommodate between 120-150 people and bookings are made with this in mind.

However, last Sunday she was contacted by the police who informed her that provisions should only be made for 50 people based on new guidelines that were issued. She was also prohibited from having a band or any other form of live music.

Hodge said even after informing the police and health authorities that she had made prior bookings and was catering for a number of people, she was told that the decision was for all businesses operating in the English Harbour/Nelson’s Dockyard area.

“To Shirley Heights’ credit, my volunteers, my family and my staff, we immediately got on to our list of reservations and called the larger groups to tell them they can no longer come. These people already paid so, we are now in a position where we have to refund the money,” Hodge said on Observer’s Voice of the People show yesterday.

“At a time like this, we were made to waste food. I think that the way we disseminate information in this country is faulty. There is a duly elected government that has a right to make decisions, but I think we have gotten to the point where information is now handed down and nothing is taking into consideration about what someone does on how much they may have spent,” the entrepreneur added.

Over the past few weeks, health officials have closed about eight restaurants in the area for reportedly violating health and safety protocols.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas also hinted last week that government is contemplating putting measures in place as a result of those and other violations.

Hodge told radio listeners that she only learned about some of this information through conducting her independent research.

She acknowledged that while health authorities have a right to do their job, they should be more transparent and communicate clearly with business operators who in term would have to share that said information with their staff in order to make the necessary adjustments.

Chief Health Inspector Sharon Martin was contacted yesterday to speak more definitively about the changes that were implemented.

However, Martin was attending a church service and was not in a position to offer further clarification.

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