Wed | Sep 30, 2020

McKenzie drops the hammer on entertainment - Weddy, Uptown Mondays pick new days

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2020 | 12:15 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Birthday boy, Father Witty (left) celebraties at Uptown Mondays Headquarters, Savannah Plaza, HWT on Monday, February 19, 2018.
Birthday boy, Father Witty (left) celebraties at Uptown Mondays Headquarters, Savannah Plaza, HWT on Monday, February 19, 2018.

Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie had threatened the entertainment sector at a town hall meeting recently that he would drop the hammer if the non-compliance with the rules and regulations set out for the reopening continued to be breached. He did just that on Tuesday. However, prior to that, the warning to event organisers and promoters went something like this, “I want to make it clear, we will not be afraid to drop the hammer if the need arises. We are asking you to work with us. Don’t force the Government in a position where we have to take any decision that would hurt the industry.”

In outlining the provocation which led to the new rules, McKenzie said that “in many instances, events are being held without any permit even being sought from the local authorities. In other cases where permits were issued, the terms and conditions were blatantly disregarded by the promoters”. He announced that effective August 24, small outdoor events, parties, round robins, launches and festivals can only be held from Thursdays to Sundays between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

REVISED RESTRICTIONS

In reacting to the tightened restrictions, one stakeholder, Ewan Simpson, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), told The Gleaner that it is unfortunate that it has become necessary to impose revised restrictions which will negatively impact the entertainment industry. “It only goes to show that we in the industry need to be more responsible with the freedoms we have,” Simpson stated.

He pointed out, however, that there is more work to be done by the regulators. “It also suggests that the Government and regulators need to be a bit more clinical in their prescriptions or matters affecting the industry, since there are so many peculiar elements that need to be considered for the practical execution of rules, orders and other legislative provisions.” The JaRIA chair said that while there are “some recalcitrant operators in the industry, there are at least an equal number of us who wish to be compliant and to get things done properly in the interest of all. We should be efficiently facilitated,” he emphasised.

MAKE THE BEST OF IT

At least two promoters of weekly dances, whose events have been sidelined by the recently announced guidelines, are now preparing to shift into a new gear and make the best of the situation. Winston ‘Wee Pow’ Powell, promoter of the 16-year staple on the weekly calendar, Weddy Weddy Wednesdays, and Whitfield ‘Witty’ Henry of uber popular start-of-the-week party, Uptown Mondays, say they have no choice but to choose another day - Thursdays for Weddy Wednesdays and Fridays for Uptown Mondays. Both events are caught in the net of Mondays to Wednesdays, the days when entertainment activities cannot be staged. Powell and Henry told The Gleaner that their events are fully compliant.

“Bwoy, this is rough, but we have to survive. We did everything according to the book, and followed all the protocols, but now we are the ones who are being made to suffer. I know that there are other promoters who have their event on a Thursday and I really don’t want to run in on their day. But at this point I don’t have much of a choice,” Powell shared with The Gleaner. “As soon as the new rules come into effect, the Weddy Weddy Wednesday will be staged on a Thursday, same place at Stone Love HQ.”

Henry said that Uptown Mondays, held at Savannah Plaza, St Andrew, was just picking up following the reopening of the sector in mid-July and he, too, had put everything in place to ensure that his patrons obeyed the rules. “We put in hand sanitisers, which is a cost because we give it away for free, and hand sanitiser is not cheap. We bought masks and sell them back to patrons who come without, at less than what we pay for them, and we even invested in a checker to count the number of persons coming in, so that we abide by the stipulation regarding crowd size. Then for us to be told that Mondays are now a no-party day. That’s not fair to us. We don’t hold street dance, we stage events at places that we own. The Government needs to punish those persons who are not following the protocols,” Henry insisted.

According to the rules, any person, venue and/or sound system found to be in breach of the permit granted will be barred for six months from obtaining a permit for entertainment events; and any promoter, venue, sound system owner or operator who fails to comply with these protocols is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $1 million and/or 12 months’ imprisonment under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com