As bars reopen, Gov’t bemoans woeful compliance rate to basic requirements

Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie (Photo: JIS)

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie has disclosed that the results of a recent survey commissioned notes that only 20 per cent of the island’s 11,000-strong bar operator sector have a valid Food Handlers’ Permit.

McKenzie, who was speaking at Red Stripe’s virtual launch of its ‘For Our Bars, For Jamaica’ support programme on Tuesday (May 19), said that the government, while mindful of the impact the national response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on community bars, urges operators to use the reopening exercise and get regularised.

This as more findings from the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) survey revealed around 15 per cent of bars possess a necessary Sprit License.

 “The survey that we have undertaken over the last couple of days, have provided some frightening information. Across the country, 80 per cent of our bar operators are operating without a food handlers’ permit, which is a part of the required Ministry of Health regulations,”

“Another frightening [figure] we have found, close to 85 per cent of bars are operating without a Spirit License and this is an opportunity that will be afforded to the operators, to regularise their situation,”

To this end, Minister McKenzie explained that in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, application forms will be circulated as daily inspections are conducted to ensure the 11,030 community bars island-wide adhere to the stipulations which keep them open during the two-week trial period.

Among those adjustments mandated during the phased reopening of bars, which begins today starting at 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, other measures include:

  • Social and physical distancing must be maintained at six feet (or two metres) between customers.
  • No more than five customers should be present at any given time.
  • Outdoor seating arrangements must maintain a physical distance of at least six feet between individual seats.
  • No stools, benches or tables are allowed inside bars. Operators have been encouraged to serve customers without hosting large gatherings for their own personal safety and protection.
  • No group games or events such as parties or round robins will be allowed within or on the bar premises.
  • Gambling and gaming instruments, such as poker boxes are also mandated to observe the six-foot physical distancing rule.
  • Bartenders must wear face shields, face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPEs).
  • And finally, bars must establish a sanitation station for the proper washing of hands as well as maintain sanitation protocols or face being shut down.

For his part, Minister McKenzie lauded Red Stripe for the $28 million support initiative, calling it an excellent example of Corporate Jamaica working together with all parts of the economy to get the country back on track.

“This demonstration of goodwill is predicated on a sense of understanding the needs of the community that you are responding to,” he said.

Red Stripe’s For Our Bars, For Jamaica programme aims to fast-track the recovery of community bars, and comes as a direct response to commercial challenges faced by these establishments in particular, due to the restrictions on operations as part of the national COVID-19 guidelines.

Over $28 million dollars of direct support will be injected by the programme, which includes complimentary cases of Red Stripe and Pepsi product for re-stocking of the 1,865 selected bars island-wide.

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