By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Gas station operators yesterday said they were “ecstatic” that the government has extended their opening hours to 5pm even though business volumes remain down by 60 percent.
Vasco Bastian, owner and operator of Esso’s East Street South and Soldier Road location, told Tribune Business that this week’s decision to alter the 1pm closing time was “an excellent move on the part of the prime minister”.
“I want to congratulate him on taking wise counsel from whoever advised him on opening up. He listened and we have seen a steady flow of business, but business is still off by 60 percent,” Mr Bastian said.
“What we are happy with as dealers is the fact that we can now assist essential workers who are getting off from work at 3pm. We are also able to give employees a couple of extra dollars, because they are hurting. They are hurting because you have some pump attendants taking home less than $50 a week. But with this extension of hours they might be able to take home a couple of extra dollars for their families.”
“I think the Prime Minister did well, I continue to wish him well and his government, and hopefully we can get back to full operational hours at the end of May. But, right now, I’m ecstatic.”
The 1pm closing time was prompting many drivers into an early afternoon rush to the gas stations, resulting in long lines that sometimes extended into the street and clogged gas pumps. The government’s move to extend the opening hours should reduce this disruption and panic.
“Lines have decreased, and people now know they have extra time,” Mr Bastian said. “They have about three extra hours, and they are not in a panic any more. The traffic is slowing regularly like on a regular flow now, so it cuts down on the stress levels of the pump attendants and the cashiers and everyone involved.
“Whenever the prime minister wants advice on the petroleum industry, we, the dealers and operators of these sites, are there for him. He can come directly to the dealers. He doesn’t have to go to the wholesalers all of the time. We are on the ground, we live and we see it every day, and if he wants some advice he can reach out to the Bahamas Petroleum Retailers Association (BPRA).
“We are willing and able to talk to the prime minister at any time. When he does good things, we all benefit. We are open to have discussions with him and to advise him at all times when it comes to natural disasters on the ground level. Yes, he can communicate with the wholesalers (oil companies), but we also could tell him what he needs to do in that regard.”
Oswald Moore, the Association’s acting chairman, said of the 5pm extension: “I don’t think that needs any comment. We go with the flow of things, and it is my feeling that the opening up is a good sign because that would tend to indicate that they feel that things are moving in the right direction.”
Suggesting that the move will save jobs in the industry, Mr Moore said: “Yes, it will make it easier, because those persons who were put on vacation for a period of time and paid their vacation pay and were ready to come back to work, some of those persons can come back right away.”