Eased restrictions welcomed by bar owners, staff and customers
Licensed trade professionals yesterday welcomed the lifeline of loosened Covid-19 restrictions – but warned that more needed to be done to ease the plight of a sector hammered by health precautions.
Philip Barnett, the president of the Island Restaurant Group, said: “We look forward to going through the next stage and ultimately the relaxation of all restrictions.
Mr Barnett, whose IRG includes the Pickled Onion, Hog Penny and Brew in Hamilton, added: “We function best when running at full capacity and we have been restricted for over a year.
“We need to take the training wheels off and operate normally and maximise our seating footprint before we can get back to some semblance of normal business.”
Rick Olson, the owner of Bermuda Bistro at the Beach in Hamilton, said that the curfew start time move from 10pm to midnight would help the trade, but bars and restaurants would still have to shut well before the lockdown kicked in.
Mr Olson added: “It’s very nice to get a slight relaxation – it has been a serious struggle over the past year and a half.
“However, the curfew is ridiculous – even though curfew is midnight, the last call will be 10.30pm because we have to clean up and get our staff out so they have time to get home.”
But he said: “We can now bring back some more staff including a night bartender – it will help with employment.
“When the curfew is totally lifted we can bring back even more staff and we will look to have more entertainment.
“We are just waiting for curfew to be lifted.“
The move to Phase 3 yesterday also allowed the hospitality business to open for indoor dining and seated bar service for all customers.
The maximum number of people at a table has moved up from six to 10.
But tables must be spaced six feet apart and customers still have to wear masks when not seated.
Mark O’Connor, the manager at the Astwood Arms in Hamilton, said: “When the curfew was at 10pm, it was very difficult to get everything done, but with it being moved to midnight that will help a bit.
“At least people can stay out until 11pm – it will help us mostly on the weekends.
“The main thing is the kitchen can stay open later until about 9pm or 9.30pm – before we only had time for one sitting.”
Reed Young, the owner of Docksider Pub & Restaurant, wrote in a Facebook post at the weekend: “The curfew has to end. We are being punished and for what?
“The vast majority have gone along with all the rules … racing home to avoid a $3k fine is not necessary … not to mention devastating to restaurants.”
Customers also welcomed the lighter touch Covid-19 regulations.
David Madeiros, enjoying a drink at the bar with friends at Docksider on Front Street, said that being able to enjoy bar service made a big difference.
He added: “Sitting at a table is one thing but sitting at the bar is more personable and more spontaneous.
Mr Madeiros said: ”Going to the bar is not all about drinking alcohol, it’s about enjoying the banter with your friends and the staff and watching sport on the TV screens together.”
Jon Berry, a customer at the Astwood Arms in Hamilton, said he looked forward to being able to relax and enjoy a meal out.
He said: “It is nice to be able to come out and there is no rush to go home.”
Jade King, a bartender at Docksider, added: “Now we can have bar service, I have more time to talk to people and give them that individual experience.
“Going from table to table is more of a routine, but now everyone can be themselves and be more genuine.”