Gym owner refuses to follow new SafeKey rules, bar owners claim they are ‛easy targets’
A gym owner yesterday said she will refuse to follow government regulations requiring members to have a SafeKey.
Karen Hodgkins, who owns Magnum Power Force Gym on Church Street in Pembroke, said in order for the gym to survive it would be “business as normal”.
She told The Royal Gazette: “I am not doing it – I’m not going to do the SafeKey. I will face the consequences. I feel that the practice is discriminatory, it is not making the gym safer as the vaccinated can still carry the virus.
“I don’t think the SafeKey is reasonable for a gym with regular members, it is not realistic.”
Ministry of Health and the police have powers to shutter businesses that disobey public health regulations.
Ms Hodgkins joined a chorus of voices opposing the new measures which require patrons of indoor dining establishments, bars, clubs, and sports clubs as well as gyms and fitness facilities to prove they are immunised or do not have the Covid-19 virus.
Under new public safety regulations due to come into force today, a SafeKey QR code will be required for anyone attending indoor public spaces where masks are permitted to be removed.
SafeKey will also be required in order to board all island boats with more than 20 passengers, and all new large group exemptions.
Travellers who are not required to quarantine will receive their SafeKey with their negative tests results.
Ms Hodgkins, a former One Bermuda Alliance candidate, said that her gym has followed all other safety measures.
She added: “We followed all the rules – we are cleaning and wiping the machines down. We are one of the cleanest places, name an incident that originated from gyms. Our members come in wearing a mask, stay six feet away. I think we are being penalised. I don’t think any business should be penalised.
“The vaccinated can carry the virus, the SafeKey won’t do what it is supposed to do.“
Reed Young, the owner of Docksider Pub & Restaurant on Front Street, said the measures were unfair as the spikes in Covid cases did not originate from restaurants or bars.
He said: “I think we are an easy target for heightened restrictions, we are people places, but I do feel that none of the spikes originate from restaurants and bars. The government is trying to get people vaccinated by making life difficult on people who are not.
“I am pro-vaccination but I believe it is unfair targeting. Every time they tighten it up, it comes back to us.”
Mr Reed said he expected to see a decline in business as a result of the new regulations and said it could put jobs at risk as less money flows in.
Nigel Prescott, the owner of a charter boat business, described the new measures as “devastating”.
He said he was forced to cancel a charter he had booked on one of his vessels this evening because the government had not given enough notice for all guests to obtain a SafeKey.
“Everyone has to have SafeKey, it can’t happen that quickly. It was thrown on us and now we have to cancel everybody – there were about 65 people coming on board. If it kicked in on Monday it would have made a huge difference but they kick it in late last night [Wednesday] for Friday evening. That is not fair.”
Mr Prescott said his business has been dead in the water throughout most of the pandemic yet he has been subject to the same costs.
He added: “We went a year and a half paying all boat license fees, liquor license fees and we never carried a passenger or sold a drink. We never got a penny back. I have contacted every department, and even the Premier, but have not had a single response back. Then they up the rates on licensing the pleasure boats.”
The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation announced last year that a refund “due to the unforeseen impact” was available for businesses that had already paid their liquor licences.
Mr Prescott said his business, Ta-Marina, which charters out two large vessels, Lady Tamara and Lady Charlotte, and a smaller vesse,l Boss Lady, has lost about $300,000 to the pandemic.
Karl Massam, head of the restaurant division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, met with several restaurant owners yesterday and said the consensus was that they are frustrated that hospitality and restaurants are on the forefront of more restrictive measures.
He said: “Restaurants are already reporting cancellations of group bookings and family reservations, which we can ill afford.
“While we all understand the need to protect our community and the vulnerable, the burden cannot be solely placed on restaurants and hospitality.“
Mr Massam, speaking solely in his capacity as general manager of the restaurant group Yellowfin, added: “I personally believe that most establishments are following the current guidelines and the safety of our patrons and staff is paramount. If there are establishments that are not following the guidelines, then these are the companies that should penalised.
“The last two outbreaks have come from individuals who have acted irresponsibly and/or gone out into the community.
“My hope is that the SafeKey initiative is short-lived for restaurants, as it is not the answer to community Covid spread prevention.”
Mr Massam did say there was some relief among restaurant owners that there were no lockdown, takeout-only or other “crippling” measures put in place.
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