Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Restaurants fired up as dining back on menu

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2020 | 12:27 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Hawkers vend outside a Mother's restaurant at the intersection of Orange and Beckford streets in downtown Kingston. Restaurants will be able to accommodate diners as of today as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.
Hawkers vend outside a Mother's restaurant at the intersection of Orange and Beckford streets in downtown Kingston. Restaurants will be able to accommodate diners as of today as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.

Restaurateurs are upbeat about today’s all-clear to start accommodating dining customers again after being restricted to take-out orders amid austere COVID-19 containment measures since March.

Yesterday, Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie announced the ending of the restriction, pointing out that no more than four customers would be allowed to dine together at each table. He warned that it was prohibited to join tables to accommodate large groups and that each establishment should ensure that proper sanitisation is maintained.

The announcement was welcome news to industry players, who had seen a fall-off in revenue with diminished traffic.

Richard Foreman, operator of Mother’s Enterprise – which had shuttered its 18 stores islandwide for a month because of the COVID-19 pinch – said that his restaurants are ready for full reopening.

“Our customers were actually understanding, but I think they are eager to come back and shop but are wary of catching COVID-19,” he told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

“We have outfitted our restaurants as recommended for sanitisation, and we have implemented social distancing as stipulated by Government. We are ready to accept diners back, and we wish to make sure that everybody is safe,” Foreman added.

Restaurant Associates Limited, operators of Burger King, Popeyes, and Little Caesar’s Pizza, was equally optimistic.

Group CEO-designate Lisa Lake said that with dining back on the cards, along with the reduction of curfew hours, Restaurant Associates was anticipating an uptick in business.

“Being able to provide our customers with additional services, through dining, is definitely a move that will help the restaurant industry as a whole,” she said. “Curfew hours are a major constraint right now. Obviously, everybody supports the Government’s efforts to make everybody safe, and we are 100 per cent on board.”

McKenzie said that occupancy of restaurants must not exceed 50 per cent of capacity at any point. In addition, tables must be spaced at least six feet apart.

He also announced that as of today, all beaches and rivers would be strictly monitored to counter widespread breaches of social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines since the June 7 reopening.

Routine inspections will be carried out by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Social Development Commission and operators prosecuted under the Disaster risk Management Act for breaches, he warned.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com