Thu | Aug 6, 2020

Devon House lockdown might not be for long

Published:Monday | July 6, 2020 | 12:30 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Patrons enter Reggae Mill at Devon House on Sunday. All businesses at the park have been ordered closed today because of a reported breach of coronavirus legislation.
Patrons enter Reggae Mill at Devon House on Sunday. All businesses at the park have been ordered closed today because of a reported breach of coronavirus legislation.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has hinted that the lockdown of Devon House amid reports of breaches of coronavirus legislation might not be protracted.

The Government will today hold talks with the management of the Devon House Development Company after a shutdown of one of Kingston’s most popular parks amid breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Act, which has banned the hosting of parties and imposed strict social-distancing protocols.

The announcement was made on Sunday by Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie after social-media videos went viral of parties reportedly being held there for weeks.

The Devon House Development Company, which manages the park, falls within the purview of the tourism ministry.

Bartlett said the idea is to iron out protocols that must be adhered to in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, explaining that the Government wasn’t eyeing “a shutdown, per se”.

“There is a discussion that the minister of local government and community development, Desmond McKenzie, is having with the managers tomorrow (Monday). The problem came from a dance night activity that took place there that went viral.”

Bartlett added: “We’ll be examining the whole thing, and the minister and I spoke, and he has called for a meeting for us to look at how the way forward can be structured and ensure that all the persons operating within Devon House are compliant with protocols.”

Insisting that uptown and downtown would play by the same rules, McKenzie warned on the weekend that party promoters would be held accountable.

He said the evidence of breaches was clear.

“This is a breach of the ban on gatherings at places of amusement, as well as a breach of the nightly curfew hours. Even more disturbing is the fact that this event was promoted and has been attended by large numbers of people every Friday for a protracted period,” he said.

“... I am surprised that the management of Devon House is permitting this event to happen, and I am insisting on a formal explanation within 48 hours,” the minister said.

Janette Taylor, executive director of the Devon House Development Company, declined comment.

But Carol Webster, operator of Devon House I Scream, was wary of the impact of a prolonged shutdown.

“It would be very unfortunate to have another lockdown in the middle of summer when we are trying to get off our feet,” Webster told The Gleaner.

“It would be tragic and would have a domino effect on seven other ice-cream stores supplied by Devon House.”