‘There’s only one way out and it’s forward’
Several businesses in the Town of St George have reopened on a limited basis, but warned their future was uncertain.
The historic town, which lost a lot of businesses after regular cruise ship visits ended a decade ago, suffered another major blow from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business operators said they had tried to adapt to new regulations designed to protect public health, but their survival was up in the air.
Geza Wolf, a co-owner of Wahoo's restaurant on Water Street, said the business faced an uphill battle without dine-in service.
Mr Wolf said: “Not much is happening. We had a good Mother's Day and the weekend was not too bad, but Monday and Tuesday were just dead.
“We still have our regulars, but a lot of people don't have full-time jobs. It's just not the same as it used to be.
“We have tried to see what we could do with takeout, but it's just not good. It's scary.”
Mr Wolf added that the staff handled the situation on a week-to-week basis, but that dine-in restaurants would struggle to remain in operation if they were unable to open their doors to diners for a sustained period.
He said: “We have to be optimistic, but the reality is the reality.
“The period between November and March are five months we don't make money. The key has always been to not lose too much.
“It's scary, but life will go on. There's only one way out and it's forward.”
Kris Furbert, of the Bermuda Pie Company, said business had been slower than usual since the business reopened.
He added the slowdown was partly because not all grocery stores had restarted the sale of hot food and also because customers may not have heard that the company was back in business.
Mr Furbert said the Wellington Slip Road food producer had diversified and now offered more options.
He added: “We have now started selling frozen pies and putting them out at grocery stores like Lindo's and Harrington Hundreds, as a way to diversify.
“We also have a free delivery service until the end of the month with service throughout St George's and St David's.
“Our menu is more than just pies. We also have local fish dinners and hamburgers.”
Joy Rothwell, the manager at Robertson's Drug Store, said even though the business stayed open over the shelter-in-place regime, business was not as brisk as usual.
She said: “We have had to restrict the numbers of customers allowed in the shop to six at a time. Everyone is required to wear a mask. It has been a huge adjustment for staff and customers alike.”
Ms Rothwell said the customer numbers limitation had hit revenue and the crisis had meant extra costs.
She added: “We have put in place a free delivery service for those customers who are not able to get out or who are under quarantine or self isolating. All of this ends up driving up costs.
“It has been difficult to be open and very testing for all of us — however, our concerns also lie with all those St George's businesses who have had to close throughout this period. We look forward to having them back.”
Kristin White, of Long Story Short, a gift store and tour centre on Water Street, said her customers had embraced online ordering and delivery options after they were permitted.
She said: “For us things have picked up. We have had lots of online orders. We created curated bundles that have goods from not just my shop but a few others in St George's and those are going really well.”
Ms White added that the store offered island-wide delivery and kerbside pick-up on Saturdays.
Henry Hayward, a former Mayor of St George, said the situation was worse than anything he had faced in his time in office.
He added: “I think everybody should be concerned and people have to put a lot of thought into how we open in the future.”
However, he said that the Olde Towne could still bounce back once the island reopened to tourists and the under-construction St Regis hotel opened for business.
Mr Hayward added: “When the cruise ships start up again, I suspect the smaller ones will get good numbers and they will be able to serve St George's and Hamilton.
He said: “All we have to do is get the bodies back in and I think Bermuda being so close to the eastern seaboard will be an advantage when we reopen.”
Hotelco, the developer of the St Regis hotel, was also forced to halt work over the shelter-in-place period, but said they still expected to open to guests next April.
Kim Swan and Renée Ming, St George's Progressive Labour Party MPs, said in a joint statement their immediate concern had been the health of constituents.
They added: “Businesses island-wide have taken a huge hit. We are hopeful for a speedy return to our economic viability and, when the phasing allows, we encourage all of Bermuda to patronise St George's.”
The two said St George's was a “yachting mecca” and that they would renew calls for “expediting the marina legislation as that will boost vibrancy in our town and, by extension, Bermuda”.