Though frustrated by the two-week lockdown announced by the prime minister yesterday, Grand Bahama businesses contacted by Guardian Business stressed they understood the need to do so for the safety and well-being of residents on the island.
Pelican Bay General Manager Magnus Alnebeck said he intends to keep the hotel open during the lockdown despite the orders that only food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, water depots, the Grand Bahama Humane Society and the island’s waste disposal and sanitation companies will be permitted to open.
“We had about 38 rooms occupied last night. No tourists. We have not had tourists for a long time at Pelican Bay. The people that are here are people that are corporate guests, either domestic guests or government people that are in Grand Bahama for various reasons and it’s difficult of course to estimate what changes they are going to make after this announcement right now,” he told Guardian Business.
“Our intention is to remain open because we solve a purpose of accommodating people that need to be here, which includes some people associated with the government, so unless we get told that we should not be open we will continue to be open.”
Annie Roberts, the owner of The Two Dollar Store Plus, said her business had just started to get back to normal operations since reopening about a month ago. She said she now worries about her nine full-time employees having to once again apply for unemployment benefits from the National Insurance Board (NIB).
“I was kind of hoping just for one week. I feel sad,” she said when asked about how she felt hearing the prime minister’s announcement yesterday morning.
“It has put a damper on everything because we were just getting going and we have shipments on the way and now we have to close now and the shipments just have to sit out there. It’s good and it’s bad. There are two sides to everything. I mean I don’t want my staff getting sick, I don’t want us getting sick but it’s just annoying because we’ve got to sit at home and they have to get back on national insurance because after Dorian we just don’t have any extra cash and it’s hard.”
Asked how she sees her business surviving following this second round of a lockdown, Roberts said “Downsizing, we started that after Dorian. We’ve got to keep downsizing because we’ve got to survive.”
For Vanessa Laing, a manager of Zorbas restaurant in Port Lucaya, the lockdown mandate is particularly frustrating since her business followed all of the social distancing protocols and was just starting to see a turnaround.
“Basically, the business started to come around. It was just now starting to increase a bit with the indoor dining, Bahamians were starting to come around again because we haven’t really seen much tourists per se. Unfortunately, it is what it is, we have to accept the fact that the number is very scary and we have family that we have to protect at home. I think the prime minister made the best call for the welfare of us all simply because of the situation in Grand Bahama. We don’t have a fully functional hospital and so we have to understand that. My biggest concern is and my pet peeve is I think we’re in this position because a lot of business places, especially bars, were not supposed to be open and catering to patrons and this is what causes a lot of this, especially the spread,” she said.
“We’re aware that a lot of restaurants were allowing persons to come in and they went beyond 50 percent dining, there were clusters. But for the most part, Zorbas maintained what exactly was mandated. This has affected the livelihood of others. It’s not just about being locked down, persons just can’t live off national insurance and pay bills. It’s a depressing state but at the end of the day we have to understand that it’s for the betterment of Grand Bahama, so we understand why the prime minister made the call.”