Less than 24-hours after closing down the popular Coconut Beach restaurant on Grand Anse beach, the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government did an about turn and allowed the business operator to re-open to serve the public on Mother’s Day on Sunday.
The decision came amidst strong condemnation of the action on social media with many persons pointing an accusing finger at Health Minister Nickolas Steele for the decision taken against the restaurant, which is seen as a competitor to his own 61 West which is located less than 60 metres away from Coconut Beach.
The owner, Dennot Mc Intyre received a letter from Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Shawn Charles on Friday instructing him to close the restaurant for allegedly violating Social Distancing protocols in the current battle on the island against the deadly coronavirus.
The police officer who brought the letter informing Mc Intyre about the decision to close down the restaurant indicated that it came from “very high up” in the country.
A senior member of management at Coconut said that the authorities contacted them within hours of handing them the forced closure letter to inform them that they will be allowed to re-open to provide a service to the public on Mother’s Day.
“I was allowed to open – I don’t know if it was because of the media or the number of persons who called (condemning the action by government),” he said.
According to a well-placed source, the operators of the restaurant had contacted a local attorney-at-law who allegedly informed them that the move against the business by the Mitchell government was “illegal” since a mere letter from the CMO could not close down any business on the island but that a process had to be followed.
He said a government team came to the restaurant to do “an assessment of the place and gave me the ok to open for Mother’s Day and we will do whatever we have to do after that.”
“I am meeting with them today and then we would finalise whatever we need to finalise,” he added.
The member of the management team described the Mother’s Day event that was already planned as “a critical business day” for Coconut Beach restaurant.
He said the event was well attended and patronised by the public.
“We were well supported. I gave thanks to the people who came out and supported me. We would do a formal thing on that because we were grateful for that. Yes, we had a good day. We had quite a good day.
Coconut Beach is normally closed every Monday and Tuesday and the operators are planning to open up to the public on Wednesday as normal.
Asked if he was aware that government did not follow the correct procedure in seeking to close down the restaurant, the member of management said: “I have my lawyer researching everything.”
Health Minister Steele was questioned on the Coconut Beach issue and he did not respond to any of the questions.
The following questions still remain unanswered by Minister Steele on the closure of Coconut Beach for allegedly violating Covid-19 protocols:-
- Mr. Minister, it is well known that your wife did approach Mr. (Dennot) McIntyre, (Owner of the restaurant) to purchase his place for the Egyptian businessman and he didn’t sell, was this a factor used in closing down Coconut Beach?
- It is also our understanding that no warning was given to the operators for allegedly violating Covid-19 protocols? If this is correct based on natural justice then why no warning was given to the restaurant before ordering it to shut its door to business?
- The Bible says Love thy neighbour as thyself. Why would your Health Ministry close down a business that is providing jobs without a warning to the operators?
- Many persons have told me that your own restaurant attracts large crowds at times without proper Social Distancing in effect and people not wearing masks. What’s your response to that Mr. Minister?