The impending national shutdown could well be the final blow for scores of small south coast restaurants still recovering from the economic impact of the first stay-at-home order imposed last March.
This is the belief of longstanding restaurateur Brian Evelyn who says while more stringent measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic are needed, many were hoping to at least continue providing curbside and takeaway dining as they struggle to make ends meet.
The Director of Naru Restaurant at Hastings, Christ Church who also shares in the ownership of the Coverley-based Miso Restaurant predicts the establishment will lose more than $120,000 in sales, while paying out $50,000 in salaries, as creditors grow increasingly impatient.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Tuesday announced restaurants would be barred from operating from February 3rd to 17th along with bars, village shops, wayside vendors and gyms. While vendors and village shop owners will receive compensation for their losses, the PM revealed no such relief for restaurants and bars.
“We were hoping that at least the Prime Minister would have allowed us to do takeaways. People would not have been sitting in the dining rooms mingling, they would just be picking up the food curbside like we did last time and we did pretty well with it,” Mr Evelyn argued.
“There would have been very little contact because the person bringing the food out would have had a mask on and we would expect the person collecting the food to have a mask on. So we didn’t see how that would have affected the virus situation, but I think we will just have to go along with it.
“I don’t think we can claim money from the government or anything like that,” he lamented.
Evelyn, complained that he is also in the dark about whether special arrangements would be made with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to assist with the payment of employees, but pledged to do everything possible to support his employees.
“We can’t have staff that have worked with us for ten years or more and discharge them for two weeks just like that, but the last time we picked up the bill, it was about $70,000 or something like that,” recalled the director.
“Then on top of it, the suppliers will be looking to get paid for the stuff provided in January, which is another 60 or 70,000 thousand and they will be looking for their money.
“I know there are some restaurants living day-to-day with the bank… and I believe many of the smaller restaurants on this south coast will find it very difficult to reopen. That is my opinion. Maybe they might be able to get the bank to work with them,” he added.
According to Evelyn, financial institutions are also becoming increasingly impatient with struggling businesses that only recently have started picking up steam.
“We have worked well with the bank, but we had a meeting three weeks ago with the bank and they told us ‘look, we can’t help you anymore, so you either have to invest personal money and so on because we can’t continue to ease you with the loans’.
“When we close now for these two weeks, I have over $12,500 in loans that will come off of my account between the 1st and the 16th without any money coming in… and if [PM Mottley] is forced to extend the lockdown, we would be really in some trouble,” he added.
The longtime restaurant owner noted the situation would be even more dire for other restaurants including a neighbouring establishment that was forced to close for days and weeks after staff tested positive for the Coronavirus.
But on the other hand, Evelyn acknowledged the need for authorities to “do something” about the “bad behaviour” of Barbadians.
“I honestly feel that a lot of Barbadian people are not heeding to what needs to be done and that is what has caused this whole thing,” said Evelyn.
“I pass minibuses everyday between [Naru] and where I live. I passed about 20 minibuses today and not one driver was wearing a mask and I can’t believe these things are happening on this coast,” he added. ([email protected])