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Open-air access considered for restaurants

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Stakeholders are looking to expand alfresco dining to give as many restaurants as possible the chance to reopen.

Recognising that outdoor service is an impossibility for some eateries, the hope is to find a way to open up “streets, sidewalks and public squares”, said Glenn Jones, the interim chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

“That type of innovation would not only help restart our tourism economy, but also create legacy benefits for Bermuda,” he said. “While it remains a tough environment for restaurants to survive and thrive, these challenges have also created an opportunity to think differently.”

The move would help, said Chris Garland, head of the restaurant division of the Chamber of Commerce.

“Those that are set up to do this type of business will do better than others. Some just have natural spaces already for al fresco dining and others don't have any.”

Mr Garland, the general manager of Flanagan's Irish Bar and Restaurant, said the island's hotels were in a better position to take advantage of the policy change than smaller “mom and pop” restaurants or those that lack outdoor spaces.

“The impact will be none to some, little to others and a lot to a few.”

A spokeswoman said the City of Hamilton had given its support to the Chamber of Commerce and was eager to ensure restaurants had “the proper infrastructure in place to maximise their opportunities”.

Limits on the size of gatherings would still cap the scale of any such proposals, Mr Garland said.

“Even if you had space for a 200-person tent, you can't fill it with 200 people.”

Takeout service had provided a small boost for restaurants at the end of shelter in place but customer interest quickly dropped off, he added.

“It has been very flat in terms of sales. It's been soft. There was initial interest, but it flattened out.

“I don't know if it's because of the loss of finances or if people are still a little tentative about how they move forward.”

Holger Eiselt, of Take Five Ltd, said Monday's announcement of the return of outdoor dining was a “very pleasant surprise”.

“It's about getting creative and hopefully creating a nice environment for everyone looking to come out and enjoy a meal and a nice glass of wine.

“It also means we are able to bring some of our staff off unemployment, which is good for everybody.”

He said the move would not be enough to bring back all of the restaurant's laid-off staff or put the business in the black, but it was still progress.

Mr Eiselt said: “It's a step in the right direction and we are very appreciative of the Government for going forward with the idea.

“Unfortunately, it won't help all the restaurants out there, but it will help those like Devil's Isle and the Village Pantry that are in a position to use outdoor spaces.”

Philip Barnett, the president of the Island Restaurant Group, said he was still waiting for guidance about how outdoor dining would be allowed to operate.

“We are indeed hopeful and understand the CoH is trying to get a sidewalk dining project off the ground which we would be extremely grateful for.

“The reality is that many restaurants do not have balconies or alfresco set-ups, so for them we desperately need to have indoor dining rooms open again — with appropriate physical distancing in place to ensure safety.”

Getting ready: Village Pantry waiter Rosario Olivera prepares for Phase 2 of the reopening of the Bermuda economy (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Village Pantry prepares for Phase 2 of the reopening of the Bermuda economy, which includes outdoor dining. Pictured is waiter Rosario Oliveira (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 20, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 20, 2020 at 8:42 am)

Open-air access considered for restaurants

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