South restaurants wait to see if diners will flock back


Ayman Ayad, chef at Joud Arabian Cuisine at South Park, San Fernando, prepares a customer’s food order as he speaks to Newsday on Friday. – ROGER JACOB

Before the current state of emergency and curfew was declared on May 15, Joud Arabian Cuisine at South Park, San Fernando, was the go-to place for late-night bar limers.

But now that bars will be reopened on Monday to vaccinated customers only, the eatery’s owner Wasim Mslout doesn’t think business will be the same as when bars were opened before the curfew.

When Mslout opened it over a year ago, it quickly became a regular spot for people wanting to grab a quick bite after liming at South Park’s pubs or others bars in San Fernando.

Mslout told Newsday at times this restaurant remained open until 3am.

However, he knows this will no longer be possible because of the curfew and the fact that bars will not be serving alcohol, which may reduce the number of people patronising them.

Still, he’s grateful that business is slowly getting back to normal.

Mslout is just one south business owner in the restaurant industry who is waiting to see what effect the government’s “safe zone” policy will have on businesses like his.

The manager of Toppers Restaurant and Bar, also at South Park, told Newsday preparations for restarting in-house dining on Monday are under way.

The manager, who did not want to be identified, told Newsday, “We have a lot of new staff and we are bringing in them from tomorrow (Saturday) so they will get familiar with the menu.

“Right now what we’re doing for preparation is we are starting to clean up and everything.”

Asked if the restaurant hired new staff because the previous ones didn’t want to be vaccinated, the manager said that was not the case.

“Some of the old staff have moved on to do other projects. But it’s just been a small turnover in staff just to tweak the floor,”

Saying the restaurant has loyal patrons, the manager said there are already reservations for in-house dining on Monday.

“Our curbside has been good, but they are eagerly anticipating our full reopening. We have a lot of reservations already.”

Toppers is asking diners to walk with their IDs and original immunisation cards, as it will not be accepting copies.

At Mr Chow’s Smokehouse, Gulf City, San Fernando, there isn’t much hope that resuming in-house dining will lead to a bump in sales, but in any case, the manager told Newsday, most customers used the takeaway service even when in-house dining was allowed.

But Mr Chow’s is still looking forward to welcoming back people who may want to eat there.

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