Wed | Sep 23, 2020

‘Good will suffer for the bad’ - Little Ochie’s Blackie cries foul as entertainment industry fearful of shutdown

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Evrol 'Blackie' Christian
Desmond McKenzie, minister of local government and community development.
1
2

“It would be a disaster.”

That’s the declaration from Evrol ‘Blackie’ Christian, one of the players in the food and entertainment industry as fears of a renewed closure heighten as authorities cite non-compliance of COVID-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the disease.

Christian is the proprietor and face of Little Ochie, one of several entities publicly flagged by a tough-talking Desmond McKenzie, the minister of local government and community development.

McKenzie has called an emergency meeting of stakeholders in the entertainment sector for Wednesday at the ministry to discuss breaches of COVID-19 protocols governing events and other gatherings. He said that surveys show that more than 700 events have been staged without permits.

In other instances where approvals for events were given, the agreed conditions were blatantly breached, the minister has said.

But Christian, in an interview with The Gleaner on Tuesday, said that his establishment is being conflated with Alligator Pond River.

“Alligator Pond is the district that Little Ochie is in. So you tag it seh Little Ochie overcrowded, you are sending a message. Because when you go by the river, which is a mile away from me, you are in Alligator Pond,” Christian said, mentioning he has received about a dozen calls from concerned customers.

Christian said the popular south Manchester establishment was following the rules outlined by the authorities.

“In a situation like this, I know that the good will suffer for the bad because at the river, you find like 500, 600, 700 people down there wearing no mask, none at all,” Christian said, as he called for the police to enforce the Disaster Risk Management Act so that law-abiding business can survive.

CONSTABULARY STRETCHED

McKenzie said that the constabulary was stretched in responding to entertainment breaches, compounded by its responsibilities in enforcing states of emergency in 10 police divisions.

“I am also very concerned about the continued misuse of our beaches and rivers. The surveys have revealed that they are being overcrowded, in clear breach of the social-distancing protocols. Little Dunn’s River, Spanish River, and Little Ochie are just a few of the venues at which the overcrowding is occurring,” said McKenzie, citing beach and river party organisers among the offenders.

The staging of small outdoor events resumed on July 21.

McKenzie said on Tuesday that the Government will not allow the gains made in the management of COVID-19 to be destroyed by people “who have absolutely no regard for anyone’s interest but theirs”.

Jamaica’s coronavirus cases have surged in the last two weeks, with 920 infections and 12 deaths tallied as at August 4.

However, Christian laments that a lockdown of the industry would be a “disaster for me, the community, and the whole country, too,” he told The Gleaner.

Christian said that his venue has been doing brisk business since the Government eased restrictions that affected restaurants and entertainment venues.

“I would say that some of my days are even better than last year,” he said.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com