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Guam business hours cut as tourism drops

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — As the Guam Chamber of Commerce made a follow-up appeal on Wednesday for the Guam Legislature and governor to work toward delaying Guam’s minimum wage increase by six months, in light of the drop in visitor arrivals, one restaurant has started to cut back its business hours as tourist customers have dwindled.

Denis Regnier, general manager of Kailee Smoke and Grill on Guam, talks about how the decrease in visitor arrivals has affected business so much that he is forced to reduce business hours and will no longer open for lunch starting Monday until business returns to normal. Seats remain empty as he speaks.  Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

Kailee Smoke and Grill, located in the heart of the Tumon tourist district, has seen a dramatic drop in tourist customers.

Denis Regnier, general manager of Kailee Smoke and Grill, said he would usually see a crowd of about 45 to 60 people after 2 p.m., depending on the day.

On Wednesday afternoon, the restaurant was empty.

Regnier said his business serviced only three tables at lunchtime on Wednesday.

In the last few weeks, Regnier said, the number of people who visited his restaurant had gone down drastically.

To stay afloat, some of his hourly employees weren’t called to work.

During lunch, he said, he usually has a team of two servers, three cooks and one bartender. However, on Wednesday, he had one server acting as a bartender, and one cook was at the grill.

Until everything goes back to normal, the restaurant’s new hours are from 5 to 10 p.m. daily, starting Monday.

Lunchtime isn’t just worth keeping — at least for now, he said.

“How long is that going to take? I don’t know,” Regnier said.

Aside from his restaurant, he said neighboring restaurants can be seen with parking lots half-empty.

The Guam Visitors Bureau stated Tuesday that 15,139 tourists have canceled their Guam trips. That’s a collective loss in revenue of about $9 million in tourist spending that will no longer occur at this time, according to GVB’s estimates.

The Guam Chamber of Commerce is asking for a six-month delay in the minimum wage increase which takes effect on March 1.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero on Monday stated she’s not convinced there is enough data to delay the wage increase — and even if there were, it’s the Legislature that starts the process of revising the minimum wage law, including delaying it.

The visitor cancellations are creating uncertainties on businesses’ operations, said Guam Chamber board Chairwoman Christine Baleto.

“The genesis of this request is related to the uncertainties of the novel coronavirus, which is impacting our visitor industry primarily through cancellations by visitors,” Baleto said.

The request is an effort to save jobs — for those small businesses that can’t afford to absorb business losses stemming from the wage increase and decreased travel due to the coronavirus issue, the Guam chamber added.

At Kailee Smoke and Grill, Regnier said, when he looks at his payroll, payments to vendors and electric bills, the situation is dismal.

During a regular business day, he said, he used to get 50 people during dinner. That number has been reduced to 20, he said.

With 20 employees working part time and some full time, he said his staff understands the situation that he has to cut their hours.

“When I have to make a decision, I have to make a decision,” he said.

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