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Cautious reaction from business as curfew kicks in

Steven Ignacio

Local bar and restaurant owners reacted cautiously yesterday to the Gibraltar Government’s decision to impose a curfew on opening hours, acknowledging the public health motives for the move but voicing concern about the economic impact on their businesses.

The curfew requires bars, restaurants and nightclubs to shut between 8pm and 7am or face fines of up to £10,000.

Orlando Yeats, who runs The Hendrix in Tradewinds, said this is not an ideal situation but he understands that “public health and public safety comes before personal business”.

“Any businesses that breach this are being irresponsible,” Mr Yeats said.

This move by the Government did not come as a surprise, Mr Yeats said, especially after he learnt that bars and restaurants in La Linea and Algeciras were to close early as well.

But while he describes this as a “necessary step” to avoid the spread of coronavirus, he remained concerned about his staff, who are not only worried about their health but also shorter working hours, and the running costs of the business.

The hospitality industry experiences a slow-down in the winter months, and just as the weather has improved and business is picking up, this legislation has come into effect.

Mr Yeats said the law remains unclear and businesses need more clarification for businesses in terms of timing.

This was echoed by his brother, Chris Yeats, who runs The Ivy in Ocean Village.

Mr Yeats was only notified of last night’s changes to business hours earlier in the day, adding that the “situation was not ideal, but we are in unchartered waters”.

But the fact that the legislation does not clarify whether the bars have to close by 8pm or last order, so that means he would have to ask punters to leave.

“Does this mean I will be fined because people are finishing their desserts or will restaurants have that flexibility?” he asked. 

Bryan Zammit, who owns Tramonti, Mamma Mia, Papa Luigi and Paparazzi, told the Chronicle: “All owners of catering establishments are very concerned.”

“We fully understand that prevention is better than cure, and the last thing we want to see is the virus getting out of hand in Gibraltar, but we are worried about the high costs we are going to incur with regards to wages, rents, taxes and more.”

“I hope the Government takes this into consideration and places some assistance to the industry, otherwise we may well see a lot of the smaller establishments having to close their doors.”

Mr Zammit said that although he saw this coming, he questioned why the casino can continue to operate when they see a much larger footfall.

Meanwhile, Café Rojo’s owner Annette Heywood said she was “pretty shocked” to hear the news just after lunchtime.

“I think a bit more warning would have been good as we have had to cancel our weekend reservations,” she said.

“I appreciate that the Government wants to look out for the people but are they going to look out for businesses as well?”

She said that this legislation cannot be sustainable in the long run, adding that although it is a small business run by her and her partner, there are overheads to cover adding: “I doubt the landlords will take a cut in the rent?”

Christian Hernandez, the president of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, said the move, coupled to other restrictions in the tourism sector including the cancellation of cruise calls, would impact on many local businesses who were already facing difficult trading conditions.

"This is unprecedented,” he said.

“There is no game plan for this situation.”

“Our members understand that this is a major public health issue, but this will have a serious impact on many businesses.”

“We are still talking to our members to evaluate this but the businesses that will be worst hit are those who are already suffering because of other trends, in particular the services and retail sectors.”

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