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Businesses welcome call for return to the workplace

Help needed: restaurateur Phil Barnett (File photo by Akil Simmons)

A restaurateur has welcomed moves by Government to encourage employees to return to the workplace.

But Phillip Barnett of the Island Restaurant Group said the industry still needed more “sustained relief” in order to recover from “significant losses” suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that a new curfew – to come into effect last night – would punish nightspots that had worked diligently to enforce Covid-19 restrictions on their premises.

Mr Barnett spoke out after David Burt, the premier, encouraged employees to return to their offices rather than work from home.

At a press conference announcing the curfew on Tuesday, Mr Burt said a return to the workplace could bring much-needed business to Hamilton retailers and eateries.

He added that bars and clubs will get discounted liquor licence fees this year.

Yesterday Mr Barnett said: “We certainly support and encourage the idea of getting people out of their homes, coming into town and going about their normal routines and returning to their offices.

“That’s going to help the local economy start moving in the right direction.

“This pandemic has affected local businesses and community businesses more than anyone else, and anything that gets people out and about and spending money again is much appreciated.”

Mr Barnett said the break on liquor license fees was “helpful”, but more significantly, demonstrated that the Government was aware of the struggles the industry was facing.

“We’re just thankful that we’re being thought of,” he said.

“The retail sector is certainly looking forward to many different ways of relief. Most restaurants have posted significant losses and it’s going to take a long time to recover that lost investment.

“We need some sustained relief for a period of time. We’re looking at meeting with the Minister of Finance and discovering ways in which he can help.

“The curfew is frustrating because the vast majority of us are doubling down on protocols, making sure everyone is masked up and sitting in bubbles.”

“It now seems that house parties have caused the most recent outbreak, yet it’s restaurants and bars that are getting punished.”

The move to encourage staff to return to the workplace was also applauded by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce.

Kendaree Burgess, the chief executive officer of the BCC, said: “It’s certainly true that footfall has decreased in the city as a result of work from home. That has had an impact on everyone – retail, restaurants, and service providers.

“City businesses rely on a high volume of traffic and there has been a lot less recently.

“Many offices were looking for the Government to give the okay to move back, and thankfully the Premier has now done that. It’s a good thing in that it provides clarity for businesses, and if it’s safe for staff to return then we encourage that.

“I think the other impact it’s had is that, although there’s been a decrease in footfall in the city, that’s resulted in a boost for neighbourhood stores. I don’t think they’re not going without items, they’re just buying them elsewhere.

“One retailer told me that they used to be super busy at lunchtimes during the week. Now they’re super busy on Saturdays.”

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Published March 04, 2021 at 8:27 am (Updated March 04, 2021 at 8:27 am)

Businesses welcome call for return to the workplace

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