#Providenciales – Turks and Caicos Islands – September 13, 2020 — Mango Reef, a premier restaurant in Providenciales will close temporarily and has sent 40 employees home until government either amends or lifts a COVID-19 health regulation which limits service at their sprawling site to 10 people at a time.
A photograph shared on social media was how the public learned of the decision by the 16-year restaurant, which is consistently ranked among the top eateries in Providenciales; having this year won a Traveller’s Choice Award from TripAdvisor.
A spokesperson for Mango Reef said the decision, by management, was made on September 10, following a visit by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police.
Members of the Force conducted a surprise inspection to ensure Mango Reef’s compliance with the public health mandate. At the time, two groups of tourists were attempting to lunch at Mango Reef; their combined number was over the regulated limit.
It caused a problem, which was eventually cleared up to allow guests to be served. Still, the experience left a bad taste in the mouth of the restaurant owner who informed staff, Mango Reef, located at Turtle Cove Marina, would close.
Other expansive restaurants are equally as incensed at the regulation which was announced on August 26 by Sean Astwood, Deputy Premier/Acting Premier.
“The 10 person limit in bars/restaurants makes no sense. It should be a percentage of capacity (be it 25%, 30% or whatever) that governs the numbers. This is how pretty much every other country in the world has governed such restrictions. For example, Mango Reef/Conch Shack are large and outdoors and should surely be allowed more than 10 people, whereas a tiny indoor downtown bar which is much, much smaller can also have 10 people but crammed into a tiny space? This is illogical to me,” said a local attorney in an email to Magnetic Media.
The Minister of Health, on Friday held a press conference, where no change to the 10 person limit was announced. Instead the country learned that the regulation is extended another 15 days.
“Restaurants and Bars will continue from September 15th to September 30th 2020 will have a limit on patrons/customers to be no more than 10 persons at a time. Enforcement of wearing of face coverings in public through the implementation of fines through the ticketing system which has already been developed,” said Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health.
It means 20 days of no work, no tips, no salary for the kitchen, dining room and cleaning staff at Mango Reef.
Managers had hoped for some dialogue or a review of the rule by the Ministry of Health; but there has been “nothing”. It is disappointing to the business which has tried to do its best by staff during the economic challenges of the coronavirus crisis, said the spokesperson.
“We have been paying staff. Long term staff members were kept on and salaries and other bills are being paid. We have been giving food and rent assistance. We were surprised that our request for a meeting was refused.”
Despite the effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 through the 10 person limit regulation and other measures, Turks and Caicos has gone from 358 cases to 644 cases of COVID-19; a 180 percent surge in the virus.