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Jan 18, 2022

Dangriga Bar and Grill Claims Police Harassment

Island Breeze Bar and Grill, located in Dangriga, is popular with locals and tourists alike who enjoy its food, beverages, and view of the sea.  But, lately it is becoming known for other things, like confrontations with law enforcement.  Owner Christopher Zabaneh told News Five his establishment has been wrongfully accused of breaching the conditions of its liquor and restaurant license.  He claims the harassment is threatening the livelihoods of his twenty employees.

 

Christopher Zabaneh

Christopher Zabaneh, Owner, Island Breeze Bar and Grill

“It is week in week out we have been going through issues with the police for months now. And, every weekend it is threats. It is threats over and over, and I feel as if though, the summons was just a tactic is a sense to show that they are in charge. I really think it is just a tactic that they are doing.”

 

Island Breeze Bar and Grill was initially launched as a bar in Dangriga Town, before the COVID-19 pandemic. But, after COVID-19 regulations mandated the closure of bars, the owner invested additional funds, transforming his establishment to a true restaurant. He even brought on additional staff.

 

Christopher Zabaneh, Owner, Island Breeze Bar and Grill

“That is where I had to make additional investments, especially in my staff, to run it the right way because now are doing lunch time and dinner time. Our main focus at that time was to just provide quality food to customers. The transition from a bar to a restaurant wasn’t an overnight thing. It was a difficult thing to do, but we stuck to it. And, throughout the pandemic, we were able to add on eight employees. So now, I have a total of twenty employees working now. I just need to say, when you look at these employees, you are looking at twenty people who go to make an honest day’s wage. Also what I had to do to keep control of the overcrowding was to hire two police officers, and that bill alone is about two thousand to twenty five hundred dollars a month, and that is not an easy bill to hold on to.”

 

The property was also retrofitted to fit COVID19 protocols. Still, according to Zabaneh, his business continues to be a target for patrol units.

 

Christopher Zabaneh, Owner, Island Breeze Bar and Grill

“They would show up to the business, it would be four to six officers at a time, all with high powered rifles. When they walk into the establishment, they would go to each person’s table, take pictures of them, video them and it is really intimidating and fear mongering. No one wants to go to a restaurant after a stressful week, and as soon as you sit down at your table you have guns in your face.”

 

Zabaneh is of the view that the latest charge against him is an attempt to have Island Breeze Bar and Grill’s restaurant license revoked.

 

Christopher Zabaneh, Owner, Island Breeze Bar and Grill

“And, it is just kind of unbelievable to thing that you have twenty individuals employed at a place, working hard every day, making food, selling beverages with the food, and our livelihoods are at stake, because if the license is revoked, then you look at a complete shutdown. And that is where really, it seems as if nothing we do is good enough.”

 

With the latest charge, Zabaneh must now answer in a court of law.

 

Christopher Zabaneh, Owner, Island Breeze Bar and Grill

“When it comes to my situation, I have video footage, and video evidence to show that the officers were wrong. Because, a table that they targeted me with the night that I got the summons, they had literally got there five minutes before the strike team got there. So, when the strike team got there, they saw six beers on the table and no food. This is where, how can they use their discretion? How can they decided whose food is cooking in the kitchen? I go and I sit down and I have these meetings with the commanding officer, and I explain to him, why do you think I have nine cooks working in the kitchen? What are the nine cooks doing in the kitchen? And, I have video footage of them working tirelessly, not only for those seated in the establishment, but also all has the takeout ordered for the people that can’t come in or just want to stay at home.”

 

Reporting for News Five I am Paul Lopez

 

According to Zabaneh, the police harassment is also affecting online customer reviews from both locals and visitors, since the establishment has been ordered to shut down in the middle of preparing food orders. 


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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