Bars toast end of SafeKey
Bermuda’s bars and restaurants celebrated a boost in business at the weekend after the abolition of SafeKey rules.
SafeKey, required for customers to dine inside at restaurants and bars, was lifted at noon on Friday to relieve the pressure on a sector that has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Reed Young, the owner of Docksider Pub and Restaurant, said yesterday that business had improved as soon as the change came into effect and that he could see “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Mr Young admitted a busy weekend of sporting events had helped business – but said that the end of SafeKey for restaurants had made a major difference.
He added: “The weekend in general, since the lifting of SafeKey, has been certainly a bit of a relief and we have noticed a bit of an up-tick in customers.
“January was a write-off, between SafeKey, Omicron and people doing ‘dry January’, but this has been a light at the end of the tunnel.
“There was a bit of relief island-wide that they are done with SafeKey and anybody can go anywhere that they like.”
Karl Massam, the head of the restaurant division of the Chamber of Commerce and general manager of the Yellowfin restaurant group, which includes Port O Call in Hamilton, agreed that the removal of SafeKey had sparked optimism in the sector and boosted public confidence.
Mr Massam said: “There was a nice vibe in town and it was nice to see a lot of tables full and more people willing to come into bars and restaurants.
“It’s something that we have been talking to the Government about and we have been pushing for and it’s great that they finally got rid of SafeKey.
“It’s a massive boost for us all.”
Mr Massam added that the change should help restaurants across the island, particularly those that do not have a lot of outdoor space.
Philip Barnett, the president of the Island Restaurant Group, which includes Pickled Onion, Hog Penny and Brew in Hamilton and the Frog & Onion in Dockyard, said he had seen a surge in family bookings since the need for SafeKey ended.
Mr Barnett added: “It’s still very early, but it was so good to see families out together and enjoying themselves this weekend, some for the first time in a long time.”
He added that restaurants had been hard hit by Covid-19 restrictions during the past two years, but he was sure the industry would continue to bounce back as more restrictions were removed.
Rick Olson, the owner of the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach, said the day SafeKey regulations were axed was the Front Street bar and restaurant’s best Friday of the year so far.
Mr Olson added: “There is definitely a much bigger buzz in town. Everyone seems a lot more optimistic. I have seen a lot of faces I haven’t seen in a while.”
He said: “We are looking to revamp more and maybe bring more people back by March 1, so we are trying to be optimistic.”