There have been mixed reactions from businesses in St. John’s over the announcement by the government that businesses will have to close by 7pm on Christmas Eve.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas made the revelation during the Post-Cabinet Press Briefing last Thursday.
Churches are allowed to hold services until 1:00 am on Christmas morning and New Year’s Day. Restaurants and hotels have been allowed to do the same.
Shopping on Christmas Eve, however, will end early.
Additionally, with the exception of those attending church services, all other citizens and residents must comply with the 11:00pm curfew.
Some business owners have agreed with the government’s stance as they accept it as a safety protocol to help control the spread of COVID-19.
“I think the government had no other choice. It makes no sense to have restrictions all throughout the year and then on this one day everything goes back to normal. Most shopping is done by 7:00 on that evening anyway and to me, it just doesn’t make sense to put my staff at risk . It is unfortunate for businesses, but we have to look at the long term benefits. It is not worth the risk,” said Paul Aflak of Lolitas.
His kin, Annette Aflak, echoed Paul’s sentiments. She said the atmosphere of Christmas Eve has changed over the years so the regulations this year will not likely have much of an impact. She continued that many countries in the region normally close earlier than 7pm on Christmas Eve to allow their employees to spend more time with their families.
Aflak suggested that instead of flocking into town, shoppers could purchase the items they need at an earlier date.
“We at Exotic Antigua collectively think it’s a good call from the government. We think it will cause less congestion and less crowding. At Exotic we have now decided to open on Sundays and on Fridays and Saturdays until 6pm to help persons do some shopping prior to Christmas, whoever wants to avoid the crowd and congestion on Christmas Eve. We are also offering after hours shopping by appointment to anyone who wants to avoid the crowds and congestion associated with Christmas. It is the best way to keep cases down,” a representative from Exotic Antigua added.
Popular department store Shoul’s Toys Gift and Housewares also supports the move with the caveat that the regulation is “…across the board and not for specific businesses”.
“I am 100 percent behind this move but I just want things to be fair. If you are asking businesses to close, then I cannot see how the supermarkets who offer basically the same things we do these days can remain open. I cannot accept the point used of essential services. Fair is fair. I also hope that all the businesses across the island will comply and it is just not a thing for us in the city,” David Shoul said.
While there is support in some quarters for the move, there are others who do not share the same sentiments.
One business owner who wished to not be named said that the government should have consulted with business people in order to map out regulations that would benefit everyone.
“There were no talks held ahead of this decision. A lot of thought was not put into it. What’s the difference between closing at 7pm rather than 6pm? It just doesn’t make sense. I do understand the safety measures that have to be considered, but what about closing at 9pm instead?
“It’s just tough because we already lost a lot of revenue due to no Carnival during the summer and now on one of the best days when we as businesses make money we have to close at 7pm. It kills our spirit.”
Another frustrated businessman had this to say: “I believe it could have been a bit longer – not 7pm but maybe even 9:30pm or 10pm. Churches are given permission to gather until 1am so then we can be given a little more time. I think persons need to just be wise enough in the streets. Our business really looks forward to Christmas Eve as it is one of our busiest days. We just need more hours.
“What is the difference with someone in the church and on the streets? Can they not get sick too?”