Rick's Café back in businessThursday, June 10, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
NEGRIL, Westmoreland - The famous Rick's Café in Negril which was accused of breaching the COVID-19 regulations while hosting the popular Mocha Fest party on May 27, is back in business after being shuttered for several days.
According to Tourism Development Company Ltd (TPDCo) Acting Executive Director Stephen Edwards in a written response to queries from the Jamaica Observer West, “Rick's Café has been placed on a special monitoring regime to mitigate against future breaches of the Ministry of Tourism's COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols. This was done following the successful completion of a COVID-19 compliance recertification process by the entity.”
The special monitoring regime means that while entities within the industry are checked randomly, Rick's Café will be checked frequently and will also be subjected to undercover visits.
Edwards also stated that COVID-19 compliance certification by TPDCo allows entities to receive visitors to Jamaica, subject to all other required Government of Jamaica approvals and licenses being in place.
Rick's Café, located on Negril's famous West End Road, was buzzing with activity when the Observer West visited the property Tuesday, the first day it reopened to the public since it was closed almost two weeks ago and its COVID-19 compliance certification revoked.
Several tour buses were seen dropping off and picking up visitors, while on the inside patrons were observed eating, drinking and rocking to music while others jumped from the cliff into the sea. People were observed wearing face masks except for those drinking and eating.
Efforts by our news team to get a comment from the management regarding the hosting of Mocha Fest and measures that they had to put in place to facilitate the reopening were unsuccessful.
We were told that none of the managers was available to speak.
A craft vendor, who refers to himself as 'Mr Fix It' and who operates on the opposite side of the street, said he welcomed the reopening of the popular attraction.
“I did not like what happened to Rick's Café and I am really happy for the opening back of Rick's Café because I really benefit from it,” he said, adding that before, the place was like a ghost town.
On May 28, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie ordered the entity closed for seven days under the powers available to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
The minister had asserted that “it is well known that entertainment activities of this type have been banned by order since March last year when COVID-19 arrived in the country. The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation did not permit this event to occur, and indeed, no municipal corporation has issued permits for events since last year”.
On Tuesday, McKenzie, in announcing the reopening, noted that it emerged in a meeting with the Rick's Café management that its place of amusement licence had expired but since then, they had completed the application process and a licence was issued by the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation. Also, the entity was already properly certified by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Jamaica Fire Brigade.
Rick's Café, which was established in 1974 by Richard “Rick” Hershman, has since expressed regret and apologised for hosting the event.
Stakeholders in Negril had claimed that Mocha Fest was in breach of restrictions placed on the hosting of entertainment events. However, Rick's Café is located within the Tourism Resilient Corridor established by the Government.
The Resilient Corridors include the coastline from Negril to Port Antonio (North Coast Corridor) and from Milk River to Negril (South Coast Corridor). Only businesses within the corridor that have been trained and assessed for adherence to COVID-19 protocols are allowed to open to tourists.
A senior source from the Jamaica Constabulary Force told the Observer West that “nothing was wrong” with Mocha Fest being hosted at Rick's Café within the Resilient Corridor which was implemented to facilitate the safe resumption of the tourism industry.
“From a law enforcement perspective, people need to understand that there are certain things that are allowed to transpire within the tourism resilient corridor. And so, there is nothing wrong with a gathering of a certain type within the resilient corridor so long as they conform to the TPDCo guidelines. So, from a law enforcement perspective, there is nothing untoward to enforce,” the source stated.
“So, outside of the resilient corridor, you can't have certain things but within it, you can,” the source added, noting that there is also the need for guests to follow social distancing and other Government guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Constabulary Force has confirmed that “representatives from Rick's Café are participating in a question and answer session with the police as investigation continues”.
Yesterday, McKenzie revealed that charges were brought against the operators of the facility following the question and answer sessions. He added that investigations revealed among other things that they were operating without the requisite place of amusement license.
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