Restaurants restrict customers as public gathering ban bites

Royal Palms was the first to announce it was closing.

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Restaurants across Grand Cayman are starting to restrict customers or shut up shop completely amid new restrictions on public gatherings.

Royal Palms was the first to announce it was closing following new guidelines restricting social gatherings to a maximum of 50 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

Other business owners said they would try to stay open for now, with many restaurants fearing the downturn in tourism will eventually force them to close.

Despite the impact, most businesses that spoke to the Cayman Compass said they understood the need for the restrictions and would follow them in the interests of public safety.

Darren Baber, operations manager at Royal Palms, said the venue was closed until further notice.

He said without cruise ships coming in, it made little sense to stay open. He said the temporary closure would allow staff to be home with their families, and management was working on a strategy to make sure its employees were taken care of through the downturn.

“We are just waiting for the whole thing to blow over really,” he said.

At Sunset House on Saturday, staff were keeping a head count of arriving customers to restrict diners to the 50-person maximum. 

The same policy was in effect at Rackam’s Waterfront bar and grill in George Town.

Manager Julie Allan said the business would be operating with a slightly trimmed-down staff to serve its loyal local clientele.

“We plan on keeping on as much staff as possible,” she said, “with shortened shifts to try and make sure they all make a bit of money.”

She said it had been hard to turn away people, but she understood the need for the restrictions.

At the Lighthouse Restaurant in Breakers, owner Giuseppe Gatta said the venue was running different sittings in an effort to cater to more diners while staying within the restrictions.

“At the moment, we are able to cope,” he said, “but I think the situation is going to close us down at some point down the road. 

“There aren’t going to be any customers and, with the cruise ships not coming in, the locals are not going to have money to go out either.”

He said it wasn’t option for many of his overseas staff to go home because of the travel restrictions. 

“It is going to be hard for the next couple of months. It is like Hurricane Ivan again, but I think we will manage. It will be tough but we will bounce back.”

Some restaurants are already innovating to adapt to the new conditions. Edoardo’s on West Bay Road announced it was offering free home delivery from West Bay to South Sound, taking payment over the phone.

Luciano De Riso, manager at Grand Old House and The Wharf restaurants, said both venues would remain open. He said management was staggering reservations and spreading out seating to allow diners to maintain a social distance.

“We appreciate the government effort and we will be complying strongly, but we have also decided to stay open no matter the business level, as long as government allows us. 

“We cannot lay off employees when they have nowhere to go, and if no people are coming, at least the staff and their family will be fed.”

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