Muted cheers

SCORES of bar operators across the Corporate Area are eagerly awaiting 11:00 am when they can legally reopen their establishments, which have been shuttered since March 18 based on orders by the Government as part of efforts to stem the community spread of the novel coronavirus.

But the cheers from the bar operators are muted as those who plan to reopen are miffed at the several restrictions imposed by the Andrew Holness-led Administration.

A handful of bar operators yesterday told the Jamaica Observer that they have decided not to reopen, as they claim the terms announced by Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie just over a week ago will see them continuing to bleed cash.

Under the rules announced by McKenzie, bars will be allowed to open at 11:00 am and close one hour before the start of the islandwide nightly curfew, which begins at 8:00 pm, until this Sunday when the curfew will begin at 3:00 pm.

Additionally, the bars will have to adhere to physical distancing rules, with no more than five people — including the bartender — inside the establishment at any one time, and no stools, benches, chairs, or tables for people within the bar.

No group games are allowed inside bars, while poker boxes and other such gaming instruments must be placed at least six feet apart to ensure physical distancing.

McKenzie further announced that all individuals operating and attending bars must wear face masks, while each bar must establish a sanitisation station for the proper washing of hands and the maintenance of sanitising protocols that are set out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Among those who have decided to keep their bars closed is Donavon, who operates a small establishment in downtown Kingston.

“If I operate my bar with only five people at one time, it would be better I keep it closed. I have the space for 15 people while maintaining the social distancing of persons being at arms-length (one person per 40 square feet), as allowed in churches,” he argued.

“If a man can’t sit in my bar he will just order a drink of rum and leave because there is no space outside, and that means he will spend $130 and leave, while if he could sit he would probably order a flask [200ml], and that is $900, before he leaves,” added Donavon.

Mavis Clarke, who operates the clean and spacious It’s a Dream HQ on Olympic Way in St Andrew, said while she is preparing to reopen today, she is disappointed at the number of individuals who will be allowed inside at any one time.

“The size of the bar should be considered, but I am going to pack the chairs on the stage because there will be no dancers during this COVID-19 time. I have no problem with the social distance, because we still have to work with it,” said Clarke, as she declared that the more than eight weeks that her bar was closed had been very tough.

Against that background, Clarke said she had no option but to reopen based on the rules, as she needs to earn.

“Mi have to work with anything them say until better come. Mi still have bills to pay, mi have to find food, and I have a little boy I have to feed three, four times a day, and the business I have downtown lock down also. So right now mi selling little juice, trying to make two ends meet,” added Clarke, who noted that her sanitisation station was all she had left to get ready for today’s reopening.

Close to the intersection of Maxfield Avenue and Lyndhurst Road yesterday, workmen were putting the finishing touches to the new door leading to the outside area, while bar operator Sharlene Griffiths and her bartender were completing the cleaning process inside the small G Sports Bar.

“I have been ready for the reopening for two months now. I will be able to meet all the requirements and I go and register, so I’m good,” declared Griffiths.

At Myrna’s Place on Waltham Park Road, also in St Andrew, the operator Myrna Jarrett was overjoyed that she would finally be able to reopen the popular drinking spot.

“The past eight weeks was rough, bredda, real rough. But mi had to fight it. Mi glad the Government a do this, because mi have bills and mi owe people. Mi owe rent ’cause a nuh my place. Mi also owe light bill and dem something deh, so a hope him free it up real soon,” said Jarrett, as she pointed out that her bar can comfortably host more than four people while maintaining the required social distance.

“But mi have to abide by what him [McKenzie] say, because a him a di boss. The amount a debt me inna, you nuh know how mi glad,” added Jarrett.

Another popular spot in the Corporate Area, Cool World Lounge in Bronstorph Square, is one of the corner bars that has already received the nod from the authorities for the measures implemented, and operator Ronald Johnson said all is in place for today.

“Them come here and take pictures and say everything all right with it. I have taken the barmaid and give her a proper drill as to how to operate to ensure that there is no issues,” said Johnson, who told the Observer that he could not talk about the troubles he has faced over the past eight weeks.

At a digital media briefing yesterday McKenzie admitted that some bar operators would find it not feasible to reopen today. He also underscored that the reopening does not apply to large establishments such as night clubs and sports bars and indicated that 600 people would be assigned islandwide to monitor the operations of bars.

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