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New Year’s Eve to be damp squib for hospitality industry

Ghost town: Front Street is expected to be deserted by midnight on New Year’s Eve (File photograph)

Revellers will not be able to ring in the New Year at favourite bars or restaurants because of a Covid-19 curfew imposed in the wake of an increase in cases.

The 12.30am curfew — which comes into force tonight — means closure at least an hour earlier to allow staff to get home before the deadline.

Dennie O’Connor, the owner of The White Horse in St George, said that the curfew had come at the worst time of the year and would hit bars and restaurants hard.

He said: “The news of the curfew is the final blow for us in the restaurant industry as this is the highest revenue time of the year with the tourist season dying out.”

He added: “It’s not just new year, it’s every day for the next ten days right through to New Year’s Eve — it’s normally one big party.”

Mr O’Connor said that The White Horse had stayed open until the early hours in recent times, but that a new curfew could see revenues slashed by as much as 50 per cent.

He added that he had hired two bands to see in the new year but they would play shorter sets.

Mr O’Connor said: “It’s a hard hit. A huge hit.

“We all understand why it’s being done but, at the same time, people have to be allowed to live.”

Mr O’Connor said that the restaurant would serve a special New Year’s Day brunch.

He added: “People are having to end the year early so let’s start the new year early.”

Mr O’Connor said: “I remain hopeful but I am reaching out to the public to keep dining out, celebrating and enjoying life.

“This curfew is here for a reason. Respect it but don’t stop living your life.”

Restrictions reminder

 A curfew from 12.30am to 5am

 Maximum group sizes will move back to 20 people

 Household mixing is strongly discouraged. However, if people must attend a household other than their own over the holidays, they are strongly urged to take an antigen test before visiting another home.

 Masks must be worn indoors at all times and outdoors when people are within 6ft of another person.

 For restaurants, bars and clubs, tables will be limited to a maximum of ten people and must be spaced 6ft apart. SafeKey will continue to be required for these indoor settings.

 Government is encouraging employees who are able, to work remotely from home. Government is also encouraging employers to use antigen tests to ensure staff who must be at the workplace are negative for Covid-19.

 Churches will be open, however masks must be worn by all, including the officiants, congregation and choirs.

 Gyms can remain open but SafeKey must continue to be used and physical distancing must be observed.

 Personal care services: SafeKey is recommended for those services that require masks to be removed.

Karl Massam, the general manager of restaurant group Yellowfin, which owns Hamilton’s Port O Call and other city bars and restaurants, said: “Normally New Year’s Eve is a big event but it’s not going to be this year.”

Mr Massam, the chairman of the restaurant division of the Chamber of Commerce, said that bars and restaurants would be forced to ask customers to leave by around 11.15pm.

He explained that once doors closed staff had to spend at least half an hour cleaning up before they finished their shift.

Mr Massam said: “We will probably have to close by 11.15pm. Maybe 11.30pm at the latest.

“That will be our safe space to give our staff enough time to clean up and get home before curfew.”

He added: “Nobody is going to be seeing in the new year in a bar or restaurant this year. If they do, they risk paying the penalty.

“Bars and restaurants have gone from nothing to being very busy and then back to nothing again. It’s very disheartening but not surprising.

“I never thought two years ago that we’d be back in the place we find ourselves now. But that’s not just Bermuda. It’s worldwide.”

Reed Young, the owner of Docksider bar in Hamilton, said that business would not be affected because the pub always closed well before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

But he questioned why the Government thought it had to reintroduce restrictions.

Mr Young said: “Government has said that Covid is going to be with us for a long time and that we are going to have to live with it — but we’re not learning to live with it while Government continues to police the people.

“People need to be trusted to make their own choices. Every time there’s an outbreak we’re on this rollercoaster ride.

“Government has got to start learning to trust the people. We have vaccines now and everything else. Let people make their own decisions.

Mr Young added that there could be chaos on the roads just after midnight.

He said: “What’s going to happen is everyone’s going to be cheering in the new year at midnight and then screaming home before 12.30am in order not to break the curfew.”

Stephen Todd, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said that many resorts had already cut back plans for festive celebrations because of the pandemic.

He said: “The traditional larger scale New Year’s Eve events have been scaled back for the most part at a number of properties in light of the pandemic and the latest variant and thus far the hotels are putting in place contingency plans that will mitigate any significant adverse impact on their operations and guest services.”

Mr Todd added: “The BHA has reached out to the Ministry of Health seeking clarification on whether the hotels can continue to provide in-person service to registered guests and we are awaiting a response.

“Similarly, any hotel staff members required to work beyond the curfew hours are being accommodated on property as required.

“As a key industry, the hotels fully appreciate the importance of the proactive steps being taken by the Government to control the spread of the latest variant and see this as a necessary step, especially as we approach the festive holiday season.”

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Published December 23, 2021 at 5:07 pm (Updated December 23, 2021 at 5:07 pm)

New Year’s Eve to be damp squib for hospitality industry

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