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Mar 24, 2020

Restaurant Businesses Take Serious Hit Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Like many businesses, restaurants are also feeling the effects of COVID-19 and will have to change their way of doing business. In the next twenty-four hours, restaurants will close their doors for in-house dining. Now that a first case of the virus has been established, take-out or delivery services will be offered to customers. We found one popular restaurant that is now offering drive thru services. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The effect of COVID-19 on restaurants and fast food businesses across the country has been staggering.  On Wednesday at midnight, all eateries will be closed for dining-in and will only be allowed to remain open for take-out services thereafter.  Since confirmation of the first case of coronavirus in Belize on March twenty-third, restaurants have been all but abandoned.


Ted Tejada

Ted Tejada, General Manager, Biltmore Plaza Hotel

“As of yesterday, we have completely seen a standstill.  I think after the first case was announced, which we knew was going to happen, it was just a matter of time.  The fear has grabbed the individuals and we all have to be conscious of this disease and what it does and so we have to be very careful.”


Out of that abundance of caution came an initiative from one business owner to change the mode of operation at his establishment.  Abdul Ahmad, proprietor of Terminal Deck, has since decided that for the duration of the coronavirus threat, he will no longer be allowing patrons to enter and wait for their orders.  Instead, he has opted to deliver.


Abdul Ahmad

Abdul Ahmad, Proprietor, Terminal Deck

“Well we had to make the necessary adjustments in regards to this COVID-19 threat, so now we are only doing pickups and deliveries.  We’re trying our best to ensure the safety of our staff, you know, as well as when it comes to the safety of our customers.  At any given time during rush hour, we could have more than twenty-five persons on the deck… which include our staff and the customers waiting and we’re trying our best to be our brothers’ keepers.”


Across town at one of the city’s more popular restaurants, Lee Mark Chang has gone the way of drive-thru service.  In adhering to guidelines for social distancing, Chon Saan Palace Restaurant has shifted its focus to meeting its customers at their vehicles.


Lee Mark Chang

Lee Mark Chang, Proprietor, Chon Saan Palace

“It’s all about social distancing, making sure that we don’t pileup together.  The government has also mentioned that any business establishment cannot hold more than twenty-five persons at any given time and so we decided that, you know what, rather than the customers coming to the restaurant we would have our staff go to them, take their orders and so they could wait in the safety and comfort of their car and then we bring their orders to them.”


Isani Cayetano

“How does this affect perhaps the turnaround time for persons ordering food and getting food and those who are waiting in line behind them?”


Lee Mark Chang

“Well it’s basically the same amount of time that we have, the most important thing is that I want to make sure that I keep my staff all employed, I want to make sure that they take home their wages every end of the week so that they could also provide for their families.  So for me, it’s more about making sure that they have something to do.”


While curbside service works just fine on Kelly Street, things are considerably different here at the Biltmore.  Delivery was never part of the services being offered and General Manager Ted Tejeda foresees that in the days ahead dire straits will lead to an increase in crime and violence and deliverymen won’t be exempt.


Ted Tejada

“Honestly, we do not consider that for my staff.  We understand that these curfews that are going to be taking place in the entire country, it puts our staff sometimes in danger.  I wouldn’t want to send any of my staff in some of these areas where I know, give it another three weeks without employment, there will be crisis.  There will be desperation in different areas in the country of Belize and so I wouldn’t want to put any of my staff in the line of danger.”


Notwithstanding these new measures, the food business continues to take a serious hit.


Abdul Ahmad

“That was quite evident yesterday.  Definitely there was a drop in sales, a significant drop in sales.”


Lee Mark Chang

“Since the month of March, we’ve seen a steady decline and then all of a sudden last week you saw a deep slope coming down.  Business has definitely been terrible and I am lucky if I make payroll, but the main thing is that as a business we have to keep our doors open.  We have to make sure that the community knows that we are here and that we will always be here to make sure that we service them in times of need.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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