By Orville Williams
After being given the green light by the Health Ministry, Al Porto proprietor John Karlsson says the Jolly Harbour eatery is preparing to welcome back live music with the 17 61° band next Monday.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, live music was a Monday night staple at the Italian waterfront restaurant, the Antigua-based band drawing a decent crowd of tourists and locals.
Things have not been the same since, as the initial lockdown and subsequent bans on in-house dining completely disrupted normal operations, leaving the restaurant to receive only a fraction of its usual number of patrons.
And while restaurants are now allowed to receive fully vaccinated patrons for dining, the sustained ban on live music, which came into effect more than seven months ago, means one of the more popular events on Antigua’s south coast remains a distant memory.
That won’t be the case come Monday, Karlsson told Observer, when things get back underway.
“[Prior to Covid it was always] a full house and a really fun night, everybody enjoys themselves and it’s a very good vibe. It’s quite an international audience – tourists or expats mainly – but also locals, because a lot of locals love 17 61° and come for the band.
“So, it’s all hands on deck usually on a Monday pre-Covid…and we look forward to [next] Monday to have the band back,” he said.
The ban on live music and loud entertainment, according to the health authorities, was mainly due to the influence on patrons, who may be lured to disregard social distancing protocols and get down to dancing.
Back in May, the government actually had to remind the operators of bars, restaurants and lounges that the ban was still in effect, following reports that some had been flouting the rules and hosting potential super-spreader events.
Acknowledging that rationale, Karlsson assured that the return of live music to Al Porto will be done under the strictest protocols, with social distancing properly enforced.
“It’s important that [the public] doesn’t think that we’re going to ‘party all night’…no dancing is allowed, but it’s still very enjoyable,” he said.
As far as the expected financial impact on the business, Karlsson added that things will not be as straightforward as they were in the past, and for that reason, they are mostly looking forward to living the experience again, after so long.
“In normal times, it would have been increasing our revenue big time. Now that we are reduced to one-third of our seats due to the Covid restrictions, it’s not really about profit, it’s more about having fun and seeing our old friends in the band performing again,” he explained.
According to unconfirmed reports, the ban on live music is among the matters being deliberated by the government this week and, considering the current epidemiological conditions, as well as the freedoms that have been coming with increased vaccinations, it would not be a surprise if that ban were lifted.