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Restaurant and Bar Owners Call for an Ease on COVID-19 Restrictions

Bars, clubs and restaurants – these are just a few of the businesses that have been taking a hit since the Covid-19 pandemic found its way to Belize in March 2020. An ease for these business owners seems nowhere in sight and has caused much frustrations and financial losses to the investors. We rejoin Vejea Alvarez for the following story where one bar owner is calling his peers to join him in sounding a unified call.

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: There are over one thousand bars and restaurants across the country that employ at least three persons per establishment. These bars have been closed for the majority of the pandemic and are feeling the financial pinch due to the current protocols. Protocols that many business owners say aren’t good for business. Speaking out on the issue bar owner Ramon Galvez. Galvez has been in the business for the past forty years but he’s now thinking about leaving all that behind. He says that the government is not taking into consideration the investment and losses that this sector is enduring. With these businesses bleeding profusely Galvez formed the Belize Association of Bar and Club Owners Limited hoping to have some compromise with the government through the unity of the business owners.

Ramon Galvez, Founder, Belize Association of Bar and Club Owners: “The first issue is the curfew. The curfew doesn’t give us enough time to make money because most people come to these places after work, people come out of work at five by six o’clock they’re reaching to the place getting to your place at about six/six thirty and then by eight thirty we have to close off so that we can get out of there by nine. So the time is really affecting us. The curfew time is really damaging us in this type of business because depend on people to come out at six thirty/seven and stay a couple three four hours at your place and then they go. But the way we are operating right now we’re losing money.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News:  While drinking does involve socializing Galvez says that persons are safer doing it at a bar than at home or a friend’s house. It is a controversial statement but here is how he explained his logic. 

Ramon Galvez, Founder, Belize Association of Bar and Club Owners: “What happened is that this type of business that we have people come and socialize but we have a control of the socializing that they do in our places. We have security, we separate with chairs and with tables to  a certain distance, we make sure they have their masks on, we have alcohol with bottles of water and cleaning up and making sure that everybody is cleaning their hands keeping on their mask. When they come into our places they come and they sit at a table they sit with the people who they come with ,we don’t allow any dancing, any jumping around, any stuff like that. The difference with that and when people socialize at people’s house that’s what’s causing the problem right now not the restaurants and bars. When you go to your cousin’s house your cousin won’t tell you “put on your mask, don’t stand there, don’t hug me up.” you understand what I mean ? There’s no control in socializing in a home environment.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News: After suffering much financial loss Galvez transformed his bar into a restaurant but even that is not working out. He says that perhaps the biggest hurdle with the current restrictions is the rule that only fully vaccinated persons can dine out. 

Ramon Galvez, Founder, Belize Association of Bar and Club Owners: “We don’t have any problem with the regulation over mask wearing, hand cleansing and the social distance, we don’t have any problem with that. The problem we have is the curfew and now they put in the vaccination that you have to be fully vaccinated right ? Imagine now that we were already operating at maybe about 30% of our clientele now you cut us with fully vaccinated now you’re cutting us 15% more percent so what are we going to operate at ? 15% of people ? It’s not gonna work. It’s not gonna work. The fully vaccinated I don’t have anything against that I’m fully vaccinated, I made all my workers get fully vaccinated but we cannot tell people by force that you have to be fully vaccinated to come in our place if they don’t really give us the time. We need the time to operate to at least eleven , eleven thirty so that we can filter our people and say okay boy this is the way the laws are you have to be fully vaccinated and we can depend on certain amounts of people for now until we pick up.”

Vejea Alvarez, Love News:  And while the businesses are being stifled by the COVID-19 restrictions the owners get no reprieve in taxes or trade licenses. At this juncture Galvez is calling on business and restaurant owners to team up and see how the matter can be addressed with the government.