Restaurants, bars and shops hope for boost as lockdown eases
Restaurants and stores saw a strong return to business during Phase 2 of the return to normality – but industry veterans warned that the sectors would need about six months to recover from the latest Covid-19 lockdown.
Business owners also pleaded for the public to do their part to protect themselves from infection so that the service sector could bounce back.
Phillip Barnett, the president of Island Restaurant Group, which owns bars and restaurants across the island, said: “The restaurants have now shut twice and have curtailed their business operations for the last year.
“So it’s been completely catastrophic for every restaurant in Bermuda and their staff.”
He added: “We’ve got a long way to go to get back to a sense of normality and normal sales figures, which allows us to support our staff, support all of our costs and pay all of our suppliers, so we will be building that back over the next three to six months.”
Mr Barnett was speaking on the second day of Phase 2 of the Government’s three-stage route to recovery.
The second phase started on Sunday and allowed retailers to open at 20 per cent capacity.
Outdoor dining was also allowed for restaurants and bars, but tables must be six feet apart with a maximum of six people at each.
Mr Barnett said that some IRG premises had an “excellent” amount of business yesterday and last Sunday – but would need more of the same to stay afloat.
He added that takeout and delivery services had helped keep restaurants in business.
But Mr Barnett said: “The reality is that we’re all dine-in table service restaurants, so a switch to a takeout-only model, unfortunately, gives us a very low percentage of our normal sales.”
He added: “People need to be responsible and get through this phase so we can move on to the next phase, which allows us to open up our indoor dining areas again and have all of our staff back to work.”
Mark O’Connor, the manager of Astwood Arms on Hamilton’s Front Street, said that the business saw more than 100 diners on Mothers’ Day and 40 customers at lunchtime yesterday.
But he backed Mr Barnett’s six month estimate for the damage to be repaired.
Mr O’Connor said: “I don’t think there are any restaurants that could afford to be shut again.
“Once we get up to a point where we don’t need to be seated any more and people are free to move around, I think we’ll get a big boost.”
Mr O’Connor added he did not expect to see many customers during the week because many people were still working from home despite staff being allowed to return to their workplaces.
He said that the new 10pm to 5am curfew, which started on Sunday, could discourage people from going out for drinks because of the shortened hours.
But Mr O’Connor said that televised sporting events and public holidays could draw in more people over the summer.
He added: “In the first couple of days people are itching to get out and do things. Hopefully, now that we’re open, we will continue to see more people return.”
Ashley Westhaver, a sales assistant at Ocean Avenue boutique in the Washington Mall on Reid Street, said that business had been slow but steady since the relaxation of regulations.
She added: “We’re hoping we’ll see more people as we get closer to summer.”
Phase 2 also includes the reopening of schools and gyms, as well as limited personal grooming services.