BVI News

Local restaurants still experiencing big decline in dine-in traffic

By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff

Several restaurants in the British Virgin Islands are seeing a significant decline in dine-in traffic due to the impact COVID-19 has had on the territory.

BVI News interviewed several restaurant managers who all said day- and night-time dining has been almost non-existent since the government approved the reopening of local restaurants in the territory and extended the night-time curfew just under a month ago. 

According to the managers, the decline in business is because of the halt in tourist arrivals.

Pusser’s Pub restaurant chain

Pusser’s Pub, Road Town manager Devon Hamilton said the business has been severely impacted, as it usually relies on the influx of tourists who know to frequent the establishment.

“Since the government has lifted the ban where they have allowed the restaurants to do seated dining, I have not seen any business from that time until now, we are practically running an empty dining room,” Hamilton said.

“Looking at it in the future, I don’t see a way out. Yes, we do get a bit here and there from the locals but that is mainly on a weekend … But other than that, during the week, it’s actually a ghost town in the restaurant — nothing going on, it has actually hurt us very bad,” he added.

Take-out business striving

While the Pussers’ seated-dining service is taking a hit, the take-out service that is also being offered is keeping the business afloat.

Hamilton said he associates the increase in take-out customers with a decrease in dine-in restaurant-goers.

“We have high traffic when it comes to take-out but … normally if we didn’t have a striving take-out business then I assume that they would be sitting in the restaurant,” the Pusser’s manager explained.

“The sit-down aspect of the restaurant is hurting, but the take-out part of it is doing pretty good and I commend the locals for their support and patronage to Pusser’s and I can’t ask for more,” he added.

Other two locations also impacted

Hamilton further said Pusser’s in Myett’s, Cane Garden Bay and at Soper’s Hole, West End were also feeling the effects from COVID-19. He said that the two locations have been taking multiple measures to increase local traffic, including the increase in advertising and discounted rates on several items on their menus.

Village Cay – Little foot traffic

Over at Village Cay, Hotel Manager Maureen Morrison-Jones said all three aspects of the business — the hotel, its marina, and its restaurant service — have been significantly impacted.

She said management had to return to the proverbial drawing board to help boost business during these difficult times.

“With the restaurant, we are getting small base foot-traffic; not a lot because since the opening we find that quite a lot of competition has been around so we have to be going outside of the box and be creative to see how the restaurant can take itself out of the water,” Morrison-Jones said.

“That mass traffic that we’re used to having; we don’t have it anymore. So, what we have to do is just be creative and try to improvise, especially on local dishes and do a lot of food advertisement, just letting persons know that business is open,” she further explained.

Bakery formed out of COVID

Jones also said a new aspect of the business — a bakery which was birthed as a result of COVID-19 — is becoming increasingly popular among locals.

She said this is the second time that a new venture has resulted from a disaster — the first being its conference room, which was created following Hurricane Irma in 2017. That, too, has been described as a success.

“We have created out of this COVID-19 what is called a little bakery which is going good. Locals are patronizing [because of] the way in which we make the local breads. So we find that one person tells another and we find that every other day we have to bake more,” Morrison-Jones stated.

A Taste of India – Minimal activity

In the meantime, Operations Manager of ‘A Taste of India’, Noumi Prasad said his business has been devastated by the pandemic.

“Since COVID-19 came, we lost everything. Before the curfew, we were getting very less amount of customers and since we reopened, we are not getting that much business that can cover our expenses.”

“Some days we have a couple tables dining and a few takeouts’ only. We didn’t see any big activities. I don’t think we are having not more than six or eight people in a night when we are busy still,” he further detailed.

Discounted prices for locals

To increase activity, Prasad said that measures are being taken to attract more locals to the restaurant.

“We are trying to post on Facebook, we are doing lunch specials also — which are at reasonable prices to serve all the locals. But, in the night, we are doing our authentic regular menu. But still we are planning to do something a little different so we can attract some more locals,” he added.

Capriccio di Mare

Manager of the Italian restaurant Capriccio di Mare, Edy Marziali, expressed similar sentiments, stating that the business activity has dwindled since COVID-19.

With this decline in business, Marziali said she believes proprietors should be more lenient with rent to allow businesses to be able to employ at least an additional employee.

“I think the government did a lot to just let us reopen. If the landlord put down the rent, it would help everybody to be open and to bring jobs for everybody else because if you remove $1,000 from the rent you can bring a job for somebody,” she said.

With no set date or announcements from the government regarding the reopening of local borders to international arrivals, the future of a number of these businesses will remain in doubt.

Until then, the only way forward will be to tailor their businesses to attract local traffic to guarantee revenue.

Copyright 2020 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

23 Comments

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  1. TIME TO OPEN BORDERS says:

    Ok all the work to reopen restaurants and bars and zero work to reopen borders so these places can survive and thrive !smh

    Like 9
    Dislike 4
    • What says:

      What the hell is wrong with you; is it all about money. Restaurants are going to have to adjust to the new normal. This is a global thing. And by chance, even if the borders open that will not guarantee that their businesses will improve. WHEN TOURIST RETURN AND the SPREAD OF THIS VIRUS WEIGHS HEAVY ON OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, YOU WILL BE ONE OF THOSE TO GET ON A PLANE AND GO TO YOUR HOMELAND OR FINE GREENER PASTURES.

      If you don’t like our approach to this pandemic, leave. take your business elsewhere.

      Like 12
      Dislike 19
      • @What says:

        You can always tell the Government employees or those who are fine so they could give a f**k about anyone else. There’s NO ADJUSTING, businesses will close and more people will be out of work! Right now rent is the biggest headache for businesses and a landlord cannot give a break without getting a break. Keep with the simple minded nonsense and we will be Haiti Virgin Islands by October.

        Like 22
        Dislike 5
        • voter says:

          If we follow your lead, in the long run we will all be dead. Covid19 is not going anywhere. We have to be strategic in the opening of the country si we can reboot the economy. Stop hiding your head in the sand!! Look around and see what others are doung and adjust…

      • Tongue Fu says:

        @What

        Really that is a simplistic approach. You do realize that COVID- 19 will be around a while right? You do realize that even if we open in November instead of July we will face the same challenges? You do realize that protection of lives at the expense of the protection of livelihoods could do more harm than good right? If they don’t die of COVID-19 they will suffer from chronic conditions attributed to the stress of not having a job or their business closing.

        A better approach would be to formulate comprehensive protocols that deal with the various components of our tourism sector whether it be Marine/ Land based or cruiseline.

        The longer the Government stays to do this the more likely more persons will be laid off and then they would have to rely on social welfare assistance placing more pressure on our already overburdened Treasury. You think we have a fairytale Godmother out there waiting to wave her magic wand and cause all of our debt to disappear then you are reading the wrong book.

        Where is the plan??

        Like 11
    • Dumbass says:

      There is a significant decline because you won’t let tourists in. I have seen few locals eating at these establishments. The longer you keep the tourist out the worse it will get. Increase unemployment. Who has money to go out to eat except crooked politicians and their cronies

      Like 18
    • Starving restaurant owners! says:

      Capriccio is owned by a big-time partner in an international law firm. Tell him to put his hand in his pocket for an extra employee instead of expecting the Abbots to subside one. Also Miss Edy, I know you don’t like serving food or clearing tables because your hair which reaches all the way down your back would get into the food, but TIE IT BACK it would be more hygenic and you could actually fill in that $1,000 position yourself.

  2. Rubber Duck says:

    The governments answer is to make them buy cameras and employ security guards.

    Like 21
  3. Well... says:

    This is only the beginning, wait until Aug/Sep. Still no help in sight for small businesses, only lip service and promises, meanwhile bills aren’t going away and just piling up on people, many of whom haven’t recovered from Irma/Maria in 2017.

    Like 11
  4. Lily Ann says:

    Get creative and offer Delivery… sale on food item … 2 for 1 specials etc. You can be struggling on the regular method of Operation. You have to MEET the customer !!!

    Like 11
    Dislike 6
    • @Lily says:

      Most businesses are not built to withstand dealing with a 100% local only economy, plus many have back-bills that are killing them. This is a ripple effect and I find that people are just saying ‘adjust’ is just not enough. If you don’t have enough people to cater to it doesn’t matter how cheap your stuff is!

      Like 13
    • Rubber Duck says:

      Don’t be ridiculous. The restaurant trade here is designed for 400,000 tourists , not 30,000 residents. No matter what you do you can never make up for that.

  5. true says:

    at least they are getting something the outer islands are dying without tourists yet the small business grants promised still not even an application form to apply.

    once the season opens again there will be no staff left as we cannot pay people when earning $0.00

  6. E. Leonard says:

    The Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a deadly and easily spreadable virus with no strong treatment protocols nor cure nor vaccine, has not taken a holiday or respite and stands ready to strike at every opportunity. So it is not surprising that dine-in business is down, for customers are acting responsible to avoid contracting the disease. Secondly, the VI is a heavily travel and trade dependent destination. And travel is down significantly.

    Covid-19 has exposed the structural weaknesses of the service-based economy, eg, tourism and financial services. Is it time for the VI to re-imagined life post Covid-19? The VI, along with the rest of the region, must shift from constructing its economy from the outer bands inwards to constructing it from nucleus outwards.

    Like 6
    Dislike 3
    • think says:

      Polio vaccine works yet noithing has been done to bring it to market it does not last forever but it stops you getting COVID19 so i do not understand why its not being used.

    • @E.Leonard says:

      @E. Leonard, I hear what you are saying about building the economy from the nucleus outwards. Go big or home. Nevertheless, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs apply here. People are focused on meeting physiological needs, eg, good, shelter, health, clothing….etc, not self actualization at this point. That will come way later. Indeed, Covid-19 highlights some structural weaknesses,

  7. 2020 says:

    No income no money to spend.

    Those that lost jobs have no money to spend. And since the borders closed, it is only from within the restaurants will get business.

    Like 2
    Dislike 1
  8. In the news says:

    China banned Tyson chicken from the US because of Covid19. Why would anyone eat out??Check the news.

    Like 3
    Dislike 1
  9. Inside-outside says:

    Restaurants that are completely enclosed indoors are doomed. Restaurants that are mostly outdoors under tents/permanent roofs, or on verandas with a roof overhead stand a better chance of attracting diners. Unfortunately outdoor restaurants in Road Town suffer from incredible noise and dust pollution so that will discourage diners. The restaurants with the best chance of survival are the outdoor types in a quiet location like on a beach or up in the mountains with a nice view.

  10. Hmmm says:

    I find it funny that now they want to talk about catering to a local market. which local market? the caribbean people local market that have been largely ignored now these restaurants and staycation boat companies and hotels want us to support them. stupes…caribbean lives matter and our money matters more especially in a time like this and they cant have it. insulting.

  11. Mike says:

    Catering to locals will do no good, if the borders don’t open soon, because many of the locals won’t have a job, or any money to spend.
    The banking industry sector, has also taken a huge hit, so you can’t rely on those jobs either. Mexico just opened up Cancun, and the surrounding area, and flights are full with tourists.

    Like 1
    Dislike 1
    • @Mike says:

      Mexico can’t even get their Covid Issues under control but they are opening borders? For whom? US travelers? That would be stupid. People in the BVI who believe that we should open our borders believe that as long borders are open we’ll get this flock of tourist. The whole world is grappling with COVID and you folks are acting as though everyone wants to go on vacation and support the economy of other countries. People globally are taking a hit financially. Wake the FK up. Can you afford to go on vacation right now?

  12. Lc says:

    Surely this related to tourism which is half of the economy. Must be a way to bring people in slowly and safely. I think some of these guys couldn’t find their butt with both hands.

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