Burt dismisses Buzz attempt to act as grocer
A fast-food chain has claimed permission to run an online grocery service was pulled two days after it was given government approval for the move.
Buzz said yesterday that it learnt through social-media posts that the grocery business would not be allowed to open as planned on Thursday.
Management at Buzz were speaking after David Burt, the Premier, hit out at the company on Twitter and said its promotion of the service was “nonsense”.
Mr Burt posted on Sunday night: “Buzz is licensed as a restaurant, restaurants are closed for all services.
“Buzz will not open as a grocery store on Thursday.”
The company issued a statement through its lawyer yesterday, that said “the Department of Health accepted and processed Buzz's application to operate as a grocery store in order to provide grocery delivery service” last Friday.
It explained: “At 3.30pm on Friday, 3 April 2020, Buzz received confirmation from the Department of Health confirming its application had been approved to operate as grocer in the following terms: This e-mail is to confirm that the application for an online grocery has been processed and approved for the location at 19 Bakery Lane, Pembroke, and shall now be licensed as Buzz Grocery.”
The statement said: “Buzz's intention was to operate a delivery food service including some cooked food and normal grocery items or curb-side pick-up in order to support the community in these difficult times and provide a safe and efficient service that would assist in keeping residents home and safe.
“Having reviewed the statutory requirements to operate as a grocer, Buzz was confident it complied with the regulations and submitted its application and paid the requisite fee, which was accepted by the Government.
“As indicated above, the application to operate for a licence as grocer was approved by the Government.”
The statement added: “Buzz was surprised and disappointed to then be subsequently informed by way of social-media posts that it would not be permitted to open on Thursday.”
The firm said it had been told on Sunday night by the Department of Health that its licence to operate as a grocer had now been denied “despite the written confirmation on Friday that its application had been approved”.
The Premier said he had alerted Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, and Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley to the situation.
He included an image of an advert from Buzz in his tweet — part of the Take Five group — which said that it was “approved as essential workers” and would offer collection and delivery services during the shelter-in-place period designed to limit community transmission of Covid-19. The promotion added: “From fruit and vegetables to dairy products to any other essentials, our new grocery store will have the food items you need.”
But Mr Burt told Buzz on Twitter that it “cannot be ‘approved as essential workers'.”
He wrote: “Essential workers are enumerated in law and the law is very specific, restaurants are closed.
“The only approvals that can be given under law are to be on the road in case of a circumstance not covered in law.”
Mr Burt added: “It is clear people do not understand how serious this situation is.
“Everyone, if you do not have to go outside, STAY INSIDE. If you have to go out, wear a face covering.”
He told Buzz to “cool out”.
Mr Burt added later: “Everyone, please forgive my tone & frustration, but I cannot express how serious #COVID19 is.”
The statement from Buzz said the firm “will, of course, comply with the new directive, but it wishes the public to be made aware of the fact the Government approved it to operate as a grocer and its intent was to support safety in the community by assisting in the delivery of food and help reduce the movement of persons within the island”.
It added: “We realise this is a stressful time for all and we understand the strain the Government and all of Bermuda is presently under.
“We do believe the matter could have been handled in a more professional manner rather than being targeted online by social-media posts by persons who did not have the full facts at the time.
“Buzz wishes all its valuable customers and all of Bermuda to stay safe and looks forward to serving you in the future.”
In a Facebook post last Friday, the company told customers its outlets would be closed “until further notice” because of the 14-day lockdown.
A police spokesman said yesterday that the controversy was being handled by the Ministry of National Security.
The Government's communications department did not respond to a request for comment.