By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian restaurants yesterday said they have “no choice” but to adjust their business models to the 50 percent indoor dining capacity limit set by the prime minister in the latest COVID-19 health protocols.
Jacques Carlino, owner/operator of Blue Sail Bar & Grill at Sandyport, told Tribune Business that being allowed to open at half of pre-COVID occupancy levels is “a plus” and “better than nothing”. He added: “I think restaurants that don’t have any outside space will be very happy to have business back because it is definitely a move in the right direction.”
Backing the government’s decision to enforce business closures if a company is found to be in violation of COVID-19 health protocols three times, he added: “I think that is very good and should be enforced, because we follow it very hard. I believe in safety and, from July 1, we will be safer than ever because that is when we open our doors to potential risks.
“We are very happy to be back in business. We can only take baby steps now in The Bahamas. We have to take it and make sure we stay in business until the good days come back. That’s all we have to do right now.”
Mr Carlino also praised the government’s decision to push back the nightly curfew’s start by one further hour, from 9pm to 10pm, as this will give businesses reliant on evening and night-time trade - such as restaurants - the opportunity to conduct more business. These sectors will now be able to remain open to 8pm, giving staff and patrons two hours to close up and get home.
“The 8pm extension is a plus, because you know by 7pm everybody had to be gone, so it’s one more hour and now you can have somebody who has finished work at 5pm get home and travel from east to west, go home and have a shower, and then come and have a pizza,” he said. “But before, if you finished work at 4pm or 5pm, by the time you do the traffic back to the west you don’t make it to my restaurant in time.
“Everything helps. I’m happy with all of the new things because they all are a move in the right direction, and I hope everybody is going to play the right way. Keep to the rules, keep people safe, keep the customer safe and keep the staff safe.”
Mr Carlino added: “Because now we still have people who show up without a mask on, and we tell them that you can’t come in, but I think it is important that the customer understands it is for their own safety. All I want to do is stay open, because as you heard with the Prime Minister, if you don’t go by the rules you are going to be closed down. I don’t think it is too much to ask customers to wear a mask when they come into the restaurant and take it off when they are seated.”
Roberta Garzaroli, Graycliff Company’s general manager, said the company and other indoor-dining restaurants “have no choice” but to comply with the 50 percent upper capacity limit. “So we are just going to be spreading people around the various different dining rooms,” she explained.
As for the additional evening opening hour, Ms Garzaroli said: “It would be nice if it was a little longer, but we’re not going to open for sit-down on the first week of July. We’re going to open probably on the second week of July.
“Right now we’re still just doing the takeaway because we’re waiting for some equipment to show up. Until that comes I can’t open for dine-in due to the delay, but right now the extra hour isn’t going to make much of a difference. Eventually it would be nice if we could open a little later.”