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Slowdown forces restaurant to cut lunch service to three days a week

Tough times: Rick Olson, the owner of the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach (File photograph)

A bar and restaurant in a prime location has been forced to cut back its lunchtime opening hours after the coronavirus slashed customer numbers.

Bermuda Bistro at the Beach, on Front Street, Hamilton, will open from 3pm between Monday and Thursday, although lunchtime service will continue on Fridays and at weekends.

Rick Olson, the owner, said that daytime takings had plummeted because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that many people were working from home, so the city was quiet during the working day and that a lack of tourists and strict public safety regulations had added to the trade’s woes.

Mr Olson added: “Business fell off the cliff with the lockdown for six weeks and the work-from-home request.

“In addition, recovery has been slow simply because people are creatures of habit and are slow to return.

“There is also the fear factor which is greatly influenced by worldwide news and social media. Lastly, many do not have the expendable income they once enjoyed.”

Mr Olson said that a massive drop in the number of visitors had compounded the problem.

He added: “Tourism is in big trouble with the lack of flights and uncertainty in the cruise line business.

“The best-case scenario in my opinion is for ships to be allowed to sail at 50 per cent capacity, which is the present situation.

“My concern is of a further loss of visits due to our restrictions placed on all visitors, and the increased fees to comply.

“It is more numbing than sad but I certainly am very concerned about all workers that are being negatively affected.

Mr Olson said: “Hopefully our labour Government will see the light and do what is right before it is to late.

“We can’t afford another disastrous year, but that seems like our destiny at the moment.”

Mr Olson questioned public safety regulations which he said did not appear to have contained the spread of the coronavirus.

The Government imposed a 12.30am curfew and other restrictions at the start of last month which will remain in force until January 20 at least.

It is also understood that customers who want indoor seating must have had two vaccine shots and the booster to get a SafeKey from Saturday.

Mr Olson said the curfew was “useless”.

He added: “SafeKey has been damaging to business and also divisive to our community. If the booster is necessary for SafeKey, all restaurants will be devastated.

Mr Olson said: “My recommendation is to kick the Travel Authorisation form to the curb and accept supervised antigen tests for all travellers and public schools.

“If hospitality workers are deemed to be antigen tested weekly during a spike, I am good with that, even though I believe all my staff are vaccinated.”

He added: “I think most, if not all, dining and drinking establishments are struggling except those that were traditional takeout restaurants.

“Business has been slow even before the pandemic due to our declining tourism trade and exodus of workers both local and foreign.”

Mr Olson said: “This is not about business owners, this is about the unemployed.

“My payroll has been reduced by over 50 per cent and the reduction in sales has been even greater in the last two years.

“My decisions and actions are all based on surviving so we can resume and rehire. It is heartbreaking to see the number of job applications with no light at the end of the tunnel to 2024.

“I hope I am wrong because I don’t know if I want to hang in there, jeopardising my retirement.”

Mr Olson’s views were backed by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce.

Karl Massam, the head of the chamber’s restaurant division, said: “January is normally slow anyway — there’s always a bit of a downturn after Christmas, but this year it seems particularly bad.

Mr Massam, the general manager of restaurant group Yellowfin, which owns Hamilton’s Port O Call and other city bars and restaurants, added: “If you walked through Hamilton now you’ll see that it’s very quiet because so many people are quarantining or working from home.”

He also questioned the new SafeKey rules.

Government figures suggest that fewer than 35 per cent of the population would qualify under the stricter regime.

Mr Massam said: “It’s cold at the moment and people aren’t wanting to be outside. They want to be inside.

“We haven’t heard anything official yet, but if people are required to have a booster shot before they can get a SafeKey, that’s a massive concern.

“We’re all always treading a line, but a lot of restaurants are on the brink right now. We need diversity and we’re all just trying to help each other.”

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Published January 12, 2022 at 7:38 am (Updated January 12, 2022 at 7:38 am)

Slowdown forces restaurant to cut lunch service to three days a week

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