Tougher coronavirus restrictions appear to have taken a big bite out of the earnings of the island’s top restaurants but declaring that half a loaf is better than none at all, many have resigned themselves to accept the fallout as the surge in infections shows no sign of abating.
The most recent COVID directive issued by the Government of Barbados adjusted the curfew for weekdays to 9 p.m. and Sundays to 6 p.m.
The early closing hours have had a significant impact on restaurants that were already struggling after the eight-week lockdown earlier this year. A Barbados TODAY team visited several south coast restaurants to examine the impact of the new directive on business operations.
Chiryl Newman, general manager of the iconic Champers Restaurant said it has been forced to end dinner service on Sundays.
She said: “Sunday is a very busy day for dining out both lunch and dinner and you only have a lunch service, and you don’t have a dinner service anymore so effectively it cuts your revenue in half and during the week and on Sunday’s effectively you only have one sitting for dinner you really can’t turn the tables because especially in a place like Champers it’s not a come to eat and run place it’s come eat sit down and relax.”
But Newman praised the provision in the directive which allows their staff to work later. “ That has been fantastic that has made a tremendous difference,” she said. “Before we still had to be home the same time as the customers so it means having to get the customer out even earlier than they needed to be out…we can take the time to do our stock clean up and get home within the curfew, so that has been a tremendously thoughtful thing.”
Despite the setback, the restaurateur expressed gratitude that the restaurant is still able to open.
She said: “As long as you are able to earn some revenue it is better than earning no revenue at all because we still have workers and employees to pay, and they have their own financial commitments.”
At Buzo Osteria Italiana, general manager Danny Mansour reported a decline in business.
He told Barbados TODAY: “We have found especially this week; numbers have dropped off. We are now trying to get a little more staggering increase in sales, and we were seeing it the last month and a half previously nowhere near where we were 18 months ago, but we are grateful, and it gives us something to strive for.”
Mansour explained that new curfew times makes it hard to give the best customer experience.
He said: “In the service industry we like to provide a proper service because we find that because there is a time limit of when we have to be home because of curfew the restaurant has to be cleaned and sanitized before we leave… so that is cutting dinner time hours and that would result in having a slight rush on service and persons not being able to enjoy the ambience.”
But he said the measure has hit the Italian eatery harder because it has been forced to close its doors on Sundays.
Mansoor said: “It hasn’t been financially feasible for us to open on Sundays so until we have a new direction or plan to pivot on, we won’t be opening on Sundays at the moment. We will take advantage of the time to clean up the restaurant and do a little maintenance.”
Over at Bubba’s Sports Bar, Operations Manager Adrian Jones also reported a huge fall-off in business.
He said: “We are seeing fewer people coming out over the period of time because I guess when people hear early curfew, they tend to get a little more sceptical and not wanting to come out as much as they wish.”
Jones explained that his crowd normally likes to come out later in the evening and the strict curfew has affected sales.
But he insisted the sports bar is grateful to be open.
Jones said: “We managed to do some sort of business because it could be a lot worse with a full lockdown and having a full lockdown will open up more cracks on the surface where I assume a lot of restaurants will definitely fall through.”
Asked whether the business could survive a prolonged nighttime curfew enforcement, Jones said: “Once we are able to do some sort of business, we will try we will fight and hope for the best we are hoping that somehow it gets relaxed a little bit and we can go back to doing the business that we were doing before but it definitely will impact us if this continues.”
The Abidah by Accra at Enterprise has also experienced decreased numbers but has managed to survive because of higher occupancy at its hotel, said Assistant Sales and Marketing Manager Stanley Mayers.
He said: “We have seen a falloff in the local market due to the curfew especially on Sunday’s we had a very popular run with our specials, especially on Sundays However because the occupancy is up this weekend and for the last month and going into October. Our UK tourists have expressed some dissatisfaction with the protocols; however, we are trying to make it work.”
Mayers said that even though business has fallen off, he supported the government allowing it to be able to operate normally, despite the curfew on diners.
“We are really thanking the Government that we can operate close to normal and that we can still be on the road after the normal curfew time that has come in a great help to us,” he said.