Yesterday, the new curfew hours came into effect and will be in effect up until January 15, 2022. The new hours are from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m from Monday to Thursday and 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. And, while many may be under the impression that easing the regulations would be something the business community would appreciate, but that is not the case. Reporter Vejea Alvarez spoke to several restaurateurs and files the following story.
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Last night was the first time in 119 days that Belizeans had an extra hour to be outside. And the ease of the curfew regulations has Belizeans everywhere rejoicing. That’s except for restaurateurs who say the extra hours won’t benefit them in any way. According to the owner of Thirsty Thursdays Bar and Grill Linford Rosado increasing operating hours and limiting capacity wasn’t a proactive move.
Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursday: “I was excited when I think it was at the Investment Summit that they announced that they would extend the curfew hours but when I read the SI last night I was shocked. I mean I was devastated to find out that they reduced the capacity from 75% outdoors and 50% indoors to 50% across the board. That has basically negated any benefit to us because we are now going to have to pay for longer hours so more in salaries, more in utilities, more in everything and serving probably less people. So the move has not been a really productive on in my view.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The owner of Midtown and Luca Restaurants Oztekin Kelat is another prominent restauranteur who says the extra hours will only increase his expenditures and doesn’t guarantee he’ll turn an extra profit.
Oztekin Kelat, Owner, Midtown Bar and Restaurant: “Now I’m going to hire twenty five percent more workers and we don’t know if the business will pay back our expenses it’s only just one hour we’re talking about and why virus doesn’t spread at night only. What I suggest to government lift curfew to midnight, it will help for everyone taxi drivers, small food vendors even the restaurants and other businesses for everybody.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Kelat wasn’t the only restaurant owner that agreed with a 12am curfew across the board. According to Rosado it’s something that he’s been suggesting for some time now.
Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursday: “I’ve been saying this for some time. Right now the only license they’re giving us is restaurant and by law restaurants closes at eleven so putting the curfew at twelve it would be almost self policing because we have to close eleven by law. So a twelve o’clock curfew every night would simply make sense by midnight everybody is off the street because there would be nowhere to go. So I’m thinking that other than getting rid of the curfew completely a twelve o’clock curfew would be the next best step.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: These prominent business owners weren’t the only ones having issues with the new regulations. Derrick Gabourel, owner of M&D’s restaurant says mom and pop operators like him won’t be able to reap many benefits.
Derrick Gabourel, Owner, M&D’s Restaurant: “It’s definitely gonna help some establishments without a doubt it’s gonna help but it’s not enough because then it’s like okay they will give you an hour extra but then maybe all of a sudden now you could only have so many so how come before at eight o’clock you could have had all this crowd but now because a little change one hour addition now then I think people playing games with this corona thing that’s just my natural opinion.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: While these restauranteurs may be having issues with the new regulations Minister of Tourism Anthony Mahler praised the move and says it’s mainly to benefit small time business owners.
Anthony Mahler, Minister of Tourism: “I don’t think anybody wants to visit a country where there is an eight o’clock curfew, nine o’clock curfew. In fact my travels throughout Belize talking to the mom and pop operations ,food and beverage people it’s a huge difference between seven, eight, nine and having a curfew at eleven. Between eight and eleven is where they make a lot of the money in that they need to survive. It has been almost twenty months of COVID, we have to learn to protect ourselves, we have to learn to live with this virus. I hope that it is going to be behind us somewhere in 2022.”