By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A downtown Nassau nightclub and restaurant entrepreneur yesterday voiced fears his latest investment is “at risk” after losing more than $700,000 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Vernal Major, chief executive of the Equinox Group of Companies, which owns the Xscape Lounge & Nightclub and the Climax Lounge, said the loss estimate was “moderate at this point” amid concerns that his $300,000 investment is in jeopardy.
He added that he expected some fall-off in trade due to the pandemic, he did not expect to be out of business since March 2020 - going from regular revenues and customer traffic to zero within days.
Mr Major said the Climax Lounge, which he described as a new venture, had been scheduled to launch in March 2020 but this was halted due to the pandemic. He added that the $300,000 invested to set it up may be lost unless it is allowed to open soon.
The entrepreneur said “normal business guidelines would say that you would need up to six months to a year” to turn a profit on a new venture, but he is now approaching a full year with nothing to show for his Climax Lounge investment.
“So given that as the guideline, we’re hoping and praying that it would not exceed a year. [Otherwise] we have to reconsider our position on how we could move forward,” Mr Major added.
Nightclubs, bars and other entertainment facilities are among the businesses hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated government restrictions, as they have been closed for more than ten months. The government has yet to permit their re-opening or give any indication as to when it will allow this.
While the measures imposed on restaurants have been slightly less severe, this sector has also been disrupted by frequent COVID-19 lockdowns, curfews and other measures that, at different times, have prohibited indoor dining or restricted establishments to offering take-away or walk-in service only.
Mr Major said he had tried to offer outdoor dining at the Xscape Lounge, but this had not generated the expected returns. As a result, he warned that the Xscape Lounge’s 20-strong workforce could be could be at risk of losing their jobs. Another 25 staff are based at the Climax Lounge, but their work is restricted to keeping the location clean.
The entrepreneur said he had sent the Prime Minister’s Office, or Competent Authority, a series of proposals two weeks ago on how the Xscape Lounge and other restaurants could resume indoor dining based on just 50 percent capacity but no response has yet been received.
Mr Major said “capacity” will be based on each restaurant’s size, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force Fire Department should provide all such businesses with a “Fire and Safety Capacity Certificate” to confirm this. Such inspections, he added, should be “prioritised” for businesses that have not been able to operate since the COVID shutdown began last March.