Restaurants in Saint Lucia fear that many of them may have to close down if current COVID-19 trends continue.
Spokesperson for the Association of Independent Restaurants, Matthew Hartman, told St Lucia Times that one restaurant is already going to close down.
“I have had word of one restaurant that I know of so far that is definitely closing its doors permanently,” he stated.
He did not go into detail, preferring to leave a public announcement to the owners.
“It’s actually a miracle that most restaurants have been able to survive and it’s due to the ingenuity and the resilience of the owners,” the spokesman for Independent Restaurants asserted.
But he lamented that with continued restrictions and COVID-19 numbers heading in the wrong direction he anticipates that there could be more closures.
He said the sector has been one of the hardest hit as a result of the existing COVID-19 protocols relating to restaurants.
“The model that they operate on is not the model allowed right now which is take out only,” Hartman explained.
He observed that most restaurants offer a ‘dine in’ experience, which has been put on hold due to the current COVID-19 protocols.
Hartman said since March most restaurants have been pushed to the limit.
“While we do have some help with moratoriums on bills, loans and these types of things, unfortunately the current model and the lower capacity for business have put people to the brink,” he told St Lucia Times.
Hartman disclosed that restauranteurs have had numerous conversations with the authorities, including Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet.
“They are aware of our plight,” he observed.
He disclosed that the restauranteurs were working with the government to slowly introduce dining, first by locals and then have restaurants COVID certified to visitors on exclusive nights.
He said the initiative was beginning to work.
But Hartman said because current numbers are ‘quite alarming’, there has been a ‘U-turn’ on the initiative to get the numbers back down.
“While we completely understand, it does greatly impact us,” he told St Lucia Times.
Hartman observed that the government has offered a loan and grant instrument through the Saint Lucia Development Bank (SLDB).
While expressing the view that some may take advantage of the initiative, he explained that there’s the consideration that if a business is pushed to the brink, whether the owners would want to incur another debt through a loan.
Headline stock photo courtesy Anastasiia Chepinska