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Government 'must help bars and restaurants’

Struggling to survive: Philip Barnett, director of Island Restaurant Group (Photograph supplied)

Government must give financial concessions to restaurants and bars if the industry is to survive, according to one restaurateur.

Philip Barnett, president of Island Restaurant Group, which owns a number of popular eateries across the island, said that the coronavirus pandemic had hit entertainment spots financially – and that long-term support from Government would be necessary in order to keep businesses up-and-running.

Mr Barnett spoke out after Government on Saturday announced new restrictions in an attempt to stem the current spike in the virus.

Under the new order, restaurants are barred from catering to customers indoors, although outside dining is still permitted.

Premises are already operating under a curfew order imposed four weeks ago in which they must close by 10pm.

Mr Barnett said that it could take years for the sector to recover from the pandemic.

“Obviously the restaurant industry has had to make endless sacrifices,” he said.

“Yes, we’re all worried about Covid, but when it impacts your ability to keep your business solvent and survive – when it affects your ability to make a living – that adds another level of distress.

“We’re going to need help. Our industry is going to need support going forward. We have to have relief so that we can recapitalise, and reinvest and create jobs that have been lost over the last year.”

Mr Barnett pointed out that the US Government had given millions of dollars in handouts to supplement American restaurants.

He said: “We recognise that our Government isn’t in a position to do that, but we are looking for some sort of support going forward – when and if we do eventually get out of this.”

Mr Barnett added that there were a number of ways in which Government could reduce the cost of running a bar or restaurant.

He suggested rebates on licensing fees, property tax and payroll tax could be extended once the island emerges from the pandemic.

“We are probably paying more tax as a percentage of gross revenues than we were in 2019, due to fixed costs of property tax and other cost items such as electricity and propane, ” he said.

He said that, while profits had tumbled for most establishments, fixed costs had remained the same.

“If your business is down by 50 per cent, yet you’re paying the same overheads, that’s going to have a serious impact on your bottom line.

“So we are going to need relief beyond Covid. The sacrifices the industry has made shouldn’t be for nought. We’re going to need relief – and compassion.”

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Published March 29, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated March 29, 2021 at 7:36 am)

Government 'must help bars and restaurants’

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