President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud is asking that consideration be given to amend the curfew hours to facilitate businesses that operate at nights in the capital city. Aboud said DOMA did not want to make any request of the National Security Ministry for an amendment of the curfew hours if it will strategically affect the work of law enforcement agencies but, "perhaps consideration can be given." Instead of the 9 pm to 5 am imposed curfew, Aboud said affected businesses were considering that the curfew be amended to midnight to 5 am. Aboud believed that this would greatly mitigate the negative economic impact that the state of emergency is having on businesses in Port-of-Spain.
The capital has been listed as one of six hot spot zones declared by the Government. In that regard, Aboud said representation was made for the National Security Ministry to perhaps consider amending the curfew. "We are actually receiving calls constantly from these people (business operators). The views which have been expressed to us about this have been communicated to Trade and Industry Minister, Stephen Cadiz.". Aboud explained that for the past six days DOMA has received a high volume of feedback from members of the business community in the downtown area and those on the outskirts of the capital city.
He explained that serious concerns were expressed by those who operate businesses after 6 pm, in particular the fast food outlets, hotels and restaurants which fall within the eight hour curfew time. In down town Port-of-Spain, St James, and Woodbrook there are approximately 400 restaurants and fast food outlets that are at risk, Aboud said. Some restaurants have complained that the implementation of the state of emergency has caused a reduction in their customers, Aboud said. At the fast food outlets, due to the fact that many of the employees come from far-flung areas, those businesses have been closing before 7 pm in order to guarantee that staff reach home safely.
"This is having an effect, as it must, on the income and earnings of these people." Asked how much losses business owners have incurred and stand to lose in the coming days, Aboud said he was unable to say. "I don't think we have the capacity at this time to give a figure." Aboud said members of the food service industry, as well as food distribution and beverage industries have also vented concern about the curtailment of income of staff. "There were also discussions regarding mortgage and rental payments, which business operators of food establishments must meet. We trust that landlords and banks will take these factors into consideration in trying to share the burden which has been imposed by this curfew."
In the absence of Peter Jackson, the interim president of the Arima Business Association, former president of the association Raj Jadoo said while many businesses have been complaining, he welcomed the state of emergency. Jadoo, the owner of Jadoo Trading Ltd, felt this was the best decision for the country in light of the upsurge of crime and murders in Arima in the last few months, which had citizens uneasy and in a state of panic. Bobby Liu, owner of Friendship Restaurant on Queen Street in Arima, noted that he has seen a dip in customers in the last week. "Business has been very slow. I am not making any money." Liu, usually closes his restaurant at 10 pm, but is now forced to close by 8 pm.