Restaurants disappointed with early Christmas Eve shutdown

NOMAD Antigua in Marble Hill.
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By Orville Williams

The government’s move to restrict commercial activity across the island this year to 8 pm on Christmas Eve, has left some of the most popular restaurants with a feeling of disappointment.

Christmas Eve and Old Year’s Night, along with much of the end-of-year holiday season, have long been a buzzing time for residents and visitors, as they ramp up their celebrations with family and friends. This, in turn, has benefitted restaurants, bars, lounges and other ‘entertainment spots’, with the influx of patrons providing a massive financial boost.

This year will not be like past years, however, as Christmas Eve will come to an early end – as far as commercial activity is concerned – following a decision by the government. In an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 through clustering, almost all businesses in the country will be expected to close their doors at 8pm.

Businesses deemed essential – i.e., pharmacies and service stations – are the only exceptions to the directive and will be allowed to operate until the 11 pm curfew.

With the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic battering several industries and businesses over the past months, many were looking forward to the holidays to recoup at least some of the lost revenue.

Karine Pecquet-Vidal who operates NOMAD in Marble Hill, says things have not only been bad for them, but also for a large number of similar businesses who would have been anticipating the boost on Christmas Eve.

“It has ruined our Christmases. I will tell you that restaurants right now, we are not as busy as we should be and it’s all of us; I’m sure of that – I speak to enough of them. This is one of the nights where we can make a little bit of money [as] we’re all struggling now.”

Stephanie Cordice of Cutie’s Bar & Restaurant in Redcliffe Quay, echoed similar sentiments, adding that – though they are disappointed – she understands the rationale behind the decision. 

“It’s a disappointment for sure because that’s normally one of those nights that, definitely for our local following, is a good night. We were of the hope that it would have been at least until the curfew, like normal Fridays or Saturdays…so it is a disappointment, but at the end of the day we understand why they’re doing it.”

Alex Grimley – owner of the Sheer Rocks Restaurant and Catherine’s Café – was not as understanding, however, questioning the need to implement such an early cut-off time.

“To be honest, it’s a bit of a blow. After the year we’ve had – where [there’s been] no support financially for any of our team or for the business – to take away one of our best nights for the year when things are just starting to show some hope, just feels unnecessary.

“I don’t really understand what the purpose of it is, as much as I understand why the curfew is in place [for] the rest of the week. At Sheer Rocks, if you’re going to go for dinner, it’s going to take two-and-a-half hours. So, for our team to get home by 11 o’ clock for the curfew, the last sitting has to be at 7 o’clock.

“So, we’ve already lost those sittings all the way through. It’s been really difficult already, but for them to [now] have to close at 8 o’ clock, I just don’t really understand the logic of it. We have two weeks, I think this year, to probably make our money for the whole season and to lose one of these nights, it is really tough,” Grimley said.

Not everyone was as disappointed with the decision though, as Dimitrius Mehilli of Akropolis Greek Restaurant in Jolly Harbour explains, the one night won’t have a big impact.

“In the last 11 years I’ve been here, I’ve never gone home early on Christmas Eve, so I’m kind of looking forward to it. I think people will adjust, especially your regulars, knowing that the business does have to shut at least two or three hours earlier.

“They will move their times a bit forward and come in a bit earlier, so I think if it’s just one day, people will work around it. Unless you’re a late-night club or bar, I don’t think it will have much of an impact…and it’s Christmas Eve, so I’m pretty sure people will want to be home to spend it with their families.”

Despite the effects of the 8 pm Christmas Eve ‘curfew’, business owners could take some consolation from the adjustments to Old Year’s Night – as the entire country will be allowed to celebrate until 1 am on New Year’s Day.

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