It has been a week since Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley stated that by the end of this month vaccinated persons would be allowed to return to gyms, restaurants, casinos, cinemas, and bars where they will be serviced by vaccinated workers.
When asked for their opinion on the subject of only vaccinated people being able to enter their establishments The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Bars and Restaurants ( TTCOBAR ) had this to say.
If the policy of our reopening is to ensure that we have only vaccinated employees, and this is legal and there are no repercussions as to not allowing unvaccinated existing staff to continue their employment, then we shall be in a better position. But the current policy, by persuasion, is going to be a challenge.
Our membership, by and large, is vaccinated. We are encouraging our staff members to become vaccinated. Those who do not want to take the vaccines, have to work with their employers to find a balance. But our premises will be a safe space by having vaccinated employees and also vaccinated customers. Internationally this is being done and we welcome anything that will keep our industry open, once it conforms to the laws of our land.
To ensure that only vaccinated customers enter our establishments, without a National policy and access to information, it would be a logistical nightmare to manage this. We have systems in place to individually manage our establishments, but this would be very labor-intensive and may make our service slower.
Continuing this line of questioning when asked if they thought that opening the bars to the fully vaccinated would help make up for lost income the TTCOBAR stated;
The monies that have been spent and many of our expenses are still outstanding, are mounting daily. The Government’s approach of keeping our establishments closed when Groceries were allowed to stay open for the sale of Alcohol, was detrimental to our Bars and Restaurants. This unfair policy has done major damage to our industry of which many of our members did not survive.
The current approach to be taken as indicated by the Honorable Prime Minister, and now the country’s leading Epidemiologist is for Vaccinated persons to be allowed for in-house services.
In balancing the need for Public Health and the safety of all our citizens, we welcome any directions that can facilitate our industry to remain open. But we are also mindful of the comments of the Commissioner of Police, with regards to there being no law present that would make the TTPS enforce the policy of the policymakers. So we are awaiting proper directions as to what is legal and what is the policy by persuasion.
Income lost over the past months can never be recovered, but income earned now will greatly assist our membership in offsetting their expenses and continue creating employment.
When asked about what they think about the Valuation Form and if it would affect their business the TTCOBAR replied that, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago must manage the country and the economy for the benefit of all citizens. In keeping with this, it was always the intent of any Government to have some form of Property Tax. The Valuation forms are just one part of the process and this Administration has signaled since last year to make this mandatory.
The property tax for our members is another expense that we have to endure. Some of our members are owners of their properties whilst others are tenants. For the tenants, any increases in cost to the landlord will result in increases in our Rents and lease charges. We shall have to manage this somehow just as how Carib Brewery had raised their prices many times and gave us the rationale, that it is only pennies as an increase. Curiously this is also the rationale given for the property tax.
In short, yes the property tax will directly impact our businesses, and the valuation form is just part of the process. It is also instrumental to note that Bars have, by and large, kept their prices the same even though we had the increases in our stock of trade.
They concluded that they wanted to be treated fairly and that it was their hope and the hope of their Association that the policymakers make the proper policy that is not unfair to any one particular industry, but would be applicable throughout our land as we all work together to beat this virus and keep our beloved twin-island Republic safe and one that can be recognized globally.
It has been 131 days since the bars have been allowed to operate.