Businesses generally welcome easing of restrictions

Many restaurants and tourism-related businesses have been adversely affected by the lack of tourists visiting the island. A bill proposing a $500 debit card to be distributed to residents for use in local establishments is aimed at helping out these struggling businesses. (PNC file photo)

Guam has taken one more step back toward normalcy.

The governor’s office announced the island will transition to PCOR 2 on Monday and restaurants can have patrons dine in at 50% capacity starting tomorrow, Saturday.

PNC spoke with members of the business community to get their reactions.

The business community, naturally, generally expressed excitement at the news.

Restaurants in particular are eager to accept more customers.

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Jennifer McFerran, marketing manager for International Dining Concepts, says their family of restaurants is not only ready to do business but maintains its commitment to keep patrons safe.

Some of the restaurants under the International Dining Concepts umbrella include Pika’s Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, and Ban Thai.

“So we’re really happy to find out that we’re increasing the capacity of indoor dining to 50% from 25%. First off, of course, it’s really important to see that community numbers are low and that everyone has been doing their part to try and keep those numbers low, to keep our CAR score really low as well. So we have been really well practiced at maintaining all of the social safety distancing protocols,” McFerran said.

She added: “Of course there will be temperature checks, sanitation, and then logging guest names and contact information right when they come in. Our staff is very well-trained in how to do this and execute this properly. So I think that we’re really ready for that 50% capacity and can maintain a safe dining experience for everyone come this Saturday.”

Along with restaurants, other businesses that are allowed to operate at 50% capacity include bingo halls, game rooms, and movie theaters.

One notable exception is bars and nightclubs.

Guam Chamber of Commerce president Catherine Castro says the Chamber is continuing to advocate on behalf of the beleaguered industry.

“We have been advocating for them for a long, long time. Again, we do our best and we try to talk to the administration and Public Health. They obviously have some concerns and that’s the reason why the moves have not been made to reopen those particular businesses,” Castro said.

Thomas Peinhopf, owner of the bars Livehouse and The Shady Lady, was less diplomatic.

Peinhopf has held protests against the governor’s decision to keep bars closed and has sued the governor as well as the director of Public Health.

Shortly after the governor issued her executive order declaring PCOR 2, the Guam Business and Bar Owners Coalition, an organization founded by Peinhopf and fellow business owner Regina Timmermann-Levanas…issued a press release.

The release harshly criticizes the governor and says in part:

“Because there are billions of dollars coming to Guam for construction projects … large corporate businesses such as Black Construction can get away with 300+ confirmed positive COVID-19 cases merely by sending a letter to the governor.”

The release also proposes a number of methods that bars can use to maintain the safety of employees and patrons and says that it welcomes Public Health’s watchful cooperation.

Speaking on behalf of the bar industry, Castro echoed the sentiment that rather than exacerbating the threat, Guam’s business community has been a proactive partner in the fight against COVID.

“I feel really strongly that the business community is really, really doing their best to adhere to all of the protocols, to keep not only the employees safe but the patrons safe,” Castro said.