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Restaurateurs show off dance moves to increase bookings

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Little Venice owner Emilio Barbieri in the Bermuda Restaurants’ Jerusalema Dance Challenge (Photograph supplied)
Staff at L’Oriental in the Bermuda Restaurants’ Jerusalema Dance Challenge (Photograph supplied)
Jitender Premi of Ruby Murry’s (left) and Swapnil Thakur of The Astwood Arms in Bermuda Restaurants’ Jerusalema Dance Challenge (Photograph supplied)

A South African hit with the words ‘save me, save me, save me’ has become the anthem for restaurant recovery on the island.

Waiters, bartenders and restaurateurs have laid out their appeal in a YouTube video as part of a dance challenge inspired by the song Jerusalema which went viral at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Produced by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, the hope is it will get more people eating out again after nearly two years of disruption caused by Covid-19.

Filmed at Little Venice, Portofino, L'Oriental, The Astwood Arms, Fourways Restaurant & Inn, City Cafe, La Trattoria Restaurant, Flanagan's Bermuda, Blu Bar & Grill, Rosewood Bermuda Tucker's Point and Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa it also included staff from Ruby Murry’s, Pearl and Port O Call.

The video was a first for Emilio Barbieri.

“I have certainly never taken part in a dance challenge before,” the Little Venice owner said. “You got to do, what you got to do. You have to do whatever it takes. It is good to be introducing some electricity into the restaurant industry here.”

Before he moved here to work at Port O Call six years ago Swapnil Thakur was a dancer in Mumbai, India. He went into the restaurant business to see the world.

“You don’t have to tell me to dance,” the manager of the Front Street restaurant said. “Just turn on the music and I’m moving.”

Mr Thakur’s boss, Karl Massam, asked him to choreograph an Indian-inspired dance for staff at Port O Call and its sister restaurants Bistro J, Pearl, The Astwood Arms and Ruby Murry’s, to show people what they were missing by not dining out.

“It was easy for me to organise,” Mr Thakur said. “I was part of a group at Bhavan’s College in Mumbai back in 2008. I was also voted best dancer at an event at the college which was awarded by my principal. With our culture, dance is a big part of it.

“I spoke to [Jitender] Premi who works for Ruby Murry’s,” he said. “Some of my colleagues from Astwood Arms are from India. So we came up with this dance number. They all agreed on it.”

They practised for about an hour and then, “on the second day we went full on in front of the camera”.

“We filmed at the Astwood Arms. We did two or three practices and we were ready to go. It took 45 minutes to film.”

Four staff from City Cafe took part.

“It was my first time doing something like that,” Shane Francis said. “It was something fun, a little team activity.

“It is showing that restaurants in Bermuda are open and ready to do business and welcome back. It is a win-win.”

Business, he said, is slowly picking up although nowhere near the level it was before the pandemic. The City Cafe’s location next to the bus terminal in Hamilton has been a challenge.

“Outdoor dining would be a hazard where we are,” Mr Francis said.

Mr Barbieri was “terrifically excited” to have Bermuda’s Covid-19 restrictions relaxed.

“But there are going to be other challenges ahead,” he said. “We have to follow government instructions and maintain the discipline so we don’t get into another situation like that.”

The Jerusalema Dance Challenge is said to have been started by a YouTube video of a group of Angolan friends dancing to the song in 2019.

Since then it has gone viral, with its popularity attributed to the lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic when people were looking for a way to connect and build community.

The Swiss Federal Office of Police was among the many organisations and individuals that got involved. In January it challenged the Irish Garda Síochána. Some Swiss officers danced in riot gear; some Irish officers danced on horseback. The dual ended with the Swiss police flying the Irish flag at their headquarters for a day.

Mr Massam, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s restaurant division, said Ian Coles of Bermuda Media pitched the idea for the dance challenge six weeks ago. Although Bermuda’s Covid-19 outlook was still pretty bleak at the time he was all for the idea.

“We want to encourage people back into restaurants,” he said. “It was kind of why the video seemed a great idea. Restaurateurs and owners were bogged down with the dire consequences of what has been happening. It just seemed like a way to get some positivity in our lives and try to go forward.

“We have had 15 months of interruptions and stoppages and restrictions. It is tough and we are in a very precarious state. Food prices have been skyrocketing the last couple of weeks which means we are putting prices up.”

Staff pose an additional challenge, he said.

“They have had 15 months of under-working and being underpaid,” he said. “Some people were laid off and brought back only to be laid off again when Bermuda went into its second lockdown.

“Now we are dancing our way to a bright future. I know that is a little corny, but I think it is accurate.”

The Bermuda Restaurants’ Jerusalema Dance Challenge video was sponsored by Bacardi and Butterfield & Vallis

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Published June 22, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 23, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Restaurateurs show off dance moves to increase bookings

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