By Lindsey Turnbull
The hospitality industry was looking forward to a small light at the end of a long closed tunnel this October when Government had hoped to tentatively open borders to tourists; however hopes were dashed when they announced last week that the circulation of Covid among the community meant they would shut borders until 2022. The ramifications of this move were swiftly felt by those businesses and the ripple effect will be felt well into next year, they say.
Luciano Di Riso Head of Operations at The Wharf and Grand Old House, said they were planning to open both restaurants ahead of the original 14th October border opening, but now only Grand Old House will be open.
“We had already plans in motion for reopening after our regular summer closing time on October 12th,” he advised. “The Wharf was greatly affected through the closure, but even during tough times we reached out to all the community, helping charities and so on.”
As a result of continued closure, the Wharf staff, who had taken the time to return with their families elsewhere in the world and who were waiting to return, were now uncertain of their future. He conceded that some staff who continued working at the restaurant would be let go.
“We are already seen the loss of bookings for the first month of 2022, so the outlook is bleak, to say the least,” Luciano said.
Tough time for restaurants
The Wharf joins the Rum Point Club, which issued a closing notice earlier this week, to the dismay of its regular clientele.
“Sadly we will be closing for an extended period due to the continually bleak outlook for the hospitality industry in the Cayman Islands. This will also allow us to repair and improve the property after damage sustained by Hurricane Grace,” they said.
Their last day of opening will be Sunday, 3rd October, and they said they looked forward to welcoming patrons back “in better times”.
Vidyadhara Shetty, who runs Blue Cilantro restaurant said his restaurant was in much need of tourists.
“We need to open the borders and move on. It is affecting our industry, especially when the staff are not making money,” he confirmed.
To compound the issue, Chef Shetty said inflationary pressures were also causing problems.
“Also food prices have gone up by 20 to 30%, this will lead to an increase in menu prices,” he worried. “Lastly CUC should give us a break, they are killing us,” he said.
Restaurants could quite safety operate with Covid in the community, industry professionals said.
Luciano said: “From the get go we have prepared, provided and schooled all staff about the handling of the Covid hygiene procedures. We have installed additional sinks, hands-free menus, mandatory masks for staff and also for guests while roaming on the premises. Disinfection stations where your eyes wander, to guaranty a constant high level of hygiene at all times.”
Covid is and will be part of our life going forward, he said.
“All our team is fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, and all precautions will always be in play,” Luciano stated. “Our industry needs the tourists. Both our restaurants have a prestigious location and the luxury of generous space on the waterfront, so even if some event hosts do care for additional space, that will never be a problem. We are definitely ready and we know that our regular overseas customers are also eager to come back, not only to enjoy the island but also to support us – the local hospitality industry.”
Healing the divide
Luciano believes that a detailed, thoughtful and caring plan for living with the virus had to be implemented.
“This division has to stop,” he warned. “This prolonged closure does not benefit anyone, and it is only stoking animosity between sections of the population, Caymanian or not. The mantra of this government is “community creates country”. You can’t create a country when only a section of the community is taking care of.”