By Kadeem Joseph
Several restaurant owners are urging the government to reconsider a decision to limit them to takeaway services only as fear for their survival grows with the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic still raging.
Among them is Dimitrius Mehilli, of the Akropolis Greek Restaurant in Jolly Harbour, who has started a petition with the hopes that it will prompt the government to allow businesses who have complied with the established protocols to seat guests for dining.
Last Wednesday, the government announced the new measure as a means of mitigating against the spread of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly Covid-19 disease after a steep increase in transmission was recorded.
In the weeks leading up to the decision, several government officials had bemoaned the lack of adherence to the rules by some businesses in the English Harbour area.
Mehilli believes that other business owners should not be penalised for these apparent lapses in judgement.
He said that he does not place the blame for the spike in cases on visitors entering the country via plane since they are required to have a negative PCR test before their arrival, “but what’s stopping people from mega yachts coming in and not getting tested and going directly to a bar or restaurant… this is what’s happening in English Harbour”. And other establishments are having to shoulder the blame, he told Observer.
The restaurateur has already garnered the signatures of about eight fellow restaurant owners in the Jolly Harbour area and he is hoping that others will register their concerns as well and take similar action.
“We cannot survive on takeaway alone. I mean our landlords in Jolly do not even given us a break so how are we supposed to pay rent? How are we supposed to pay our bills?” he queried, noting that it was difficult to survive before the pandemic hit but now it’s an even more difficult task.
So far, Akropolis has been forced to lay off 10 employees with other businesses in the area forced to do the same.
Faye ‘Petal’ Blair, of Petal’s Café, is also joining the call for government to reconsider the measure, underscoring the devastating effect the protocols that are expected to last until February 19 will have on business.
“I think it is very unfair. I think they should penalise the restaurants who do not do the protocols,” she said. “It is going to affect me in a bad way… it really messed everything up.”
She explained that many people who frequent the café leave after they are informed that they are unable to dine in.
Meanwhile, Laura Giordano of Basilico Italian Restaurant echoed the concerns, adding that many restaurants have already invested in wash stations and measures to ensure proper social distancing.
“I have 20 places instead of 80, paying the same rent and the same employees. We are the only ones paying everything, no one is helping us with anything so I am not understanding why again we should close down,” she added.
Giordano has placed her employees on a rotation system in order to give each of them a chance to make a living, even if it is a fraction of what they once earned.