Ian Alleyne is well known for his media work and social activism, particularly with regard to highlighting issues of crime and safety. However, not as many people know that he is also a businessman and part owner of the popular Hanggers Extreme restaurant and bar.
The neglect and lockdown of restaurants and bars in 2020-2021 resulted in immense damage. Revenue setbacks and financial losses were incurred by many business operators within this industry. Many shut down. Many employees were put out of work, some of them being the sole bread-winners for their families.
A well-known media personality and businessman, Ian Alleyne discussed with The Checklist. his challenges and put forward potential suggestions that could have been applied to restaurants and bars, saved many businesses and avoided the pain that many families felt as a result.
“My goal when my business partner and I opened Hanggers Extreme was to recreate an experience I would want for myself and really give that to the people of Central Trinidad. Too often we see the persons within the central communities flocking to the West or to South to get the full enjoyment of a restaurant and lounge.”
“I aimed to facilitate a vibe that provided the central crowd with an atmosphere to enjoy ‘freeing up and relaxing’ in Central. This also meant that these persons were nearer to home and safer as their journey home after liming was shorter, and they also invested in the business and development of Chaguanas. Everyone who knows me would know I support the rise of the Central businesses and I actively support and patronize my Chaguanas business colleagues.” Mr. Alleyne reflected.
This was the mindset Mr. Alleyne embodied into Hanggers Extreme, a ‘liming’ spot many of us know extremely well as it was synonymous with energetic performances, great food, casual limes with friends and family limes on weekends. Hanggers Extreme also frequently contracted the services of Trinidad and Tobago’s local entertainment industry.
Business was booming before the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic. But a major decline occurred from March 25th, 2020.
“There was no consideration or flexibility created for the Business Community, especially Bars and Restaurants. No consideration for the fact we also employ many others and in turn, support the families of our employees, as well.”
Mr. Alleyne thought that the action of a complete lockdown was much too harsh and extreme of a solution and the Government could have allowed the sale of pre-packaged food items or ‘grab n go’ beverages during that time.
He also emphasized that just when there was a silver lining with the re-opening of the bars and restaurants, the prohibition of dining-in and the ban on the sale of alcohol and the subsequent curfew period all posed hindrances to the proper operations of the restaurants and bars.
He noted that the experience of harsh times usually correlates to a rise in innovative approaches, tailored to suit the needs of these unprecedented times. With the haphazard regulation of the food and beverage industry, he noted bakeries and service stations were granted approval to sell pre-made or pre-packaged items, but the bars and restaurants were completely left out of the equation.
This caused him to have the firm belief that the Government did not do a properly sound and thorough analysis before implementing covid-19 measures, not just for restaurants and bars, but in general.
As with many business owners, the harsh restrictions on operating his establishment put him in the unfortunate position where he was using money from his personal savings to pay the business’s rent.
He stated that there were no proper grants allocated to sustain the business community.
“It felt like we were tossed aside and expected to fend for ourselves. The Government, knowing fully well that SMEs are the bread and butter of our economy and generate a significant portion of our GDP, put no plan in place to buffer these SMEs so that they can continue to function in some capacity.”
“I must thank my landlord however, as being a businessman himself, he assisted as best as possible and within reason, in attempting to ease the burden.” Alleyne stated.
Ian has subsequently aligned himself with the view of mandatory vaccination as he believes this may be the only solution to get our economy fully functional again. He referenced countries like Finland and Sweden who actively utilized Covid-19 passports as a tool to kickstart their economy. While he is aware this is quite a contentious stance he has adopted, he states he personally knows too many persons who have fallen victim to the Covid-19 virus and died and he stands by the fact that the vaccine at least offers a layer of protection to its recipients.
As of now, Mr. Alleyne tells us that his business has still not reverted to hosting its normal crowd.
He and his business partner are currently involved in discussions about the future of Hanggers Extreme Restaurant and Bar.
It would be a sad state of affairs to see yet another iconic business close down due to the mismanagement by the PNM of Covid-19.
Interviewed & Written by: Shastra Maharaj