Eased restrictions, but hardship remains the same for some on COVID-free islands

Eased restrictions, but hardship remains the same for some on COVID-free islands

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Mario Simms, 84, said he was overjoyed to reopen his restaurant in Long Island on Monday as the lockdown was lifted by the prime minister.

But despite the resumption of commercial activity on the island, Simms said business remains dire.

He owns the Blue Chip Restaurant and Bar.

Simms said only one customer patronized his restaurant today and no one visited on Tuesday.

He owns the land and does not pay rent, a saving grace as the restaurant struggles to turnover revenue.

The Long Islander said his pension benefits from the National Insurance Board supplements some of the cost of his climbing bills, but it is far from enough.

“We got water bills, phone bills, BEC bill, you know and things like that,” Simms said.

“The biggest challenge is I couldn’t pay my gas bill today. It’s challenging. It’s problems.

“I was getting a pension to substitute for it, supplement for it.

“But it’s not enough.”

He remains optimistic and hopes the situation improves soon, but admits the situation is “rough”.

Simms had to furlough his three longtime employees.

He manages the restaurant, takes orders when they come in and cooks.

“We’re coming along nevertheless and we’re thankful for it,” Simms told Eyewitness News with an upbeat tone.

“Before you could see customers by the numbers, but after the lockdown you couldn’t see nobody. And now the lockdown is over, you hardly see people. But we’re coming back to normalcy, we’re coming back. But there are no tourists. We don’t have any tourists at all.”

Asked whether his business can survive months more of border restrictions and lockdowns, Simms plainly said: “No. I’ve got trouble surviving now.”

“If I tell you the truth, my finances are bad, rough.

“I had to get rid of the staff. I used to work three, then I went to two, and then I gone to myself. Well, you know I’ve got plenty people who come and help if I have orders. I am doing little something; doing the frying and what’s not like that.”

Simms said he hopes to bring back his staff once business improves.

Long Island has not recorded a COVID-19 case.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced Monday lockdown and curfew measures would be lifted for the island, along with seven others.

Those include: Mayaguana, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Rum Cay, Ragged Island and Inagua.

Chub Cay was also added to the list when the amendment order was issued on Tuesday.

With the exception of Inagua, which recorded its first case this week, all the named islands have zero COVID-19 cases.

As to the recent lockdown, Simms said it “almost killed me”.

Simms said he is unaccustomed to being inactive, insisting his restaurant, its operation and the day-to-day interactions keep him going.

“I am not accustomed to that man,” he said.

“I’m used to moving around in my days, from 15-years-old and now I’m 84.

The Bahamas is undergoing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

As of yesterday, there were 1,036 cases across nine islands.