In the discussions so far about various sectors of the Ghanaian economy that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, one area that has barely featured is the entertainment sector.
Beyond the excitement and relaxation the entertainment sector offers, there’s the business side of it, as it employs many people as a sustainable livelihood.
This sector, like many others, has been hit by COVID-19 induced restrictions as some of them have been forced to remain closed.
For pubs, restaurants, night clubs, drinking spots, lounges and cinemas or movie Centres, which usually host large crowds, it has been a difficult period for them since the restrictions on public gathering has disrupted their operations.
As part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, there have been a number of restrictions imposed on Ghanaians since March 2020.
The initial ban on public gathering, which affected social events, took a toll on these entertainment businesses. Although that ban has been partially eased, business has not picked up for many.
As for pubs or drinking spots and night clubs in particular, they’re still supposed to remain closed. This leaves such business operators with a complete loss of revenue and job losses.
A visit by Citi Business News to some of these entertainment centres in Accra showed that they had been closed down. Operators say inasmuch as people may want to patronize these centers; the threat at this time makes it a far more costly risk.
Kwame Eboehi, the Human Resources and Administrative manager at Paloma Hotel, which houses one of Accra’s hottest night clubs, Champs, told Citi Business News it is reasonable to remain closed for now.
“Don’t be deceived by the look, when you go inside it’s quite a huge spacing that has the capacity of 400 to 500 people per night. And since this coronavirus cases were reported sales have gradually fallen to the point that it didn’t make sense for management to keep running the place and make losses. Just like any other company, you think about your operational cost and the fixed cost. As you can see, it’s an enclosed area, so the amount of energy required to ventilate the place, that’s the air conditioners, the lighting and all that not to mention the workforce, that too was a huge responsibility on the company. Therefore, it was necessary for management to make an unpopular decision because this is one of our major revenue centres” he said.
Group Sales & Marketing Manager at Alisa Hotel, Herbert Kongwieh, added that, “We also want to look at the economic viability, because with these things a lot goes into them in terms of cost and putting it together. So, if you put something together that cannot really break even, really, is it economically viable? That is probably why we haven’t really rushed to start them. Maybe as the situation improves and people are more confident to want to come out, we’ll look at it.”
The partial easing of restrictions on public gathering permits social events like funerals and weddings with a limited number of 100 people. This means pubs and event centres can permit some activities.
“Zen garden is now operating, and has plans to let the people know that we are still in business, even though we still practicing all the coronavirus safety protocols, we are still doing the live band, like on Tuesdays where the award-winning group, Kwan Pa plays some indigenous music. We started about a month ago and though the participation is not very appealing, we are just trying to stay afloat, we still have to live life. We try as much as we can not to let our customers go hungry for what we are known for,” said Isaac Djornorboua, a Manager at Zen Garden.
For some of these entertainment centres, but for the fact that they have other businesses alongside, things would have been much worse.
“We could really operate food and beverages, but it also goes with the demand that is available for it. Management is strategically studying the situation. We are getting direct reservations for now, people are booking for small groups, let’s say 60 to 100 to have a banquet or a Sunday brunch, while observing all the necessary protocols put in place by government,” Herbert Kongwieh, Group Sales & Marketing Manager at Alisa Hotel added.
“People are scared to go out and it’s not the fault of the people, it’s just the reality. We can’t operate fully so we were just depending on delivery orders just to keep Zen Garden in the minds of people,” Isaac added.
Just like many other businesses, these operators say they have also applied for government’s GHS1 billion stimulus package set aside to support SMEs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and are eagerly looking forward to it.
“I think it was a decision made in the right direction when the government announced that it made certain incentives available to some SMEs. So, I will use this opportunity to appeal to the government to expedite action in ensuring that whatever procedure needs to be adhered to, to make sure that access meets the fund is done. I believe that this will reaffirm the confidence that the business community has in this government if it is done,” Kwame, HR Manager at Paloma Hotel opined.
For the Group Sales & Marketing Manager at Alisa Hotel, Herbert Kongwieh, he thinks “It will really help if it is approved and the amount is quite substantial because now revenues are not coming in as it used to be. There are several employees that have to be paid, so if it comes in, employees will enjoy their full income for a while because for now management had to introduce a strategic salary approach just to keep a consistent flow and to keep some people in employment.”