On lockdown: Lisette Davis, hotelier

Jacopo Mazzeo

Jacopo Mazzeo

20 May 2020

We caught up (virtually) with independent rum specialist and Grenada's Rumboat Retreat owner Lisette Davis, to talk hospitality in the Caribbean, Ti Punches, and regional tourism

Lockdown and social distancing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic mean that most hospitality professionals across the globe are now spending their time at home.

To understand how they're coping with the challenge we've launched a brand new series of interviews. For the tenth in this series, we had a chat with independent rum specialist and Grenada's Rumboat Retreat owner, Lisette Davis.

How has Grenada responded to the lockdown, and what stage is the country at right now?

We went into lockdown in early March. It came as a total surprise as we did it before any cases were confirmed. The initial lockdown was incredibly restrictive with 24-hour curfews, ban on alcohol purchases and closed ports and airports.

After one week of serious restrictions we were given shopping days based on surname. ID had to be presented to the police who had set up check points and shopping hours were restricted.

Every week we have had a slight relaxation and today we still have curfew from 7pm-5am. Beaches have reopened from 5am-11am and the ban has been lifted on alcohol production and purchase.

We are still observing social distancing, masks are mandatory and only essential businesses are open.

What is the effect of covid-19 on Grenada, and on its hospitality and drink industry?

Covid-19 will have an unfavourable economic impact on the Caribbean region and certainly an immense adverse effect on this tiny island state [as] almost 60% of Grenada's GDP is gained through travel and tourism.

It seems that the Caribbean islands are pushing for more regional travel to save tourism by reducing airport tax for small island-to-island carriers, in the hope that this will create a new inter-regional style of tourism, albeit small.

All distilleries are now back to work and I would say that local alcohol consumption will remain the same or may even increase, however there will be losses due to lack of tourism and on-premise purchases.

Rum is consumed at high volume by the local population but mass gatherings and events have been cancelled and this is usually where rum and drinks are consumed in great numbers. If this continues it could be devastating for the island's hospitality and drinks industry. Grenada will have to be creative moving forward.

I have [already] observed brilliant creativity. At least two distilleries are now producing hand sanitisers, which will be a required product when hotels, bars and restaurants reopen as health and hygiene protocols will change island-wide. Perhaps this is a way that the distilleries can balance their books long-term?

Furthermore, we may see a keen interest in exporting more of our locally produced spirits, until travel and tourism numbers increase and jobs are restored.

How is hospitality going to adapt?

With great emphasis on health and hygiene. A shift from manual to more automated services, greater attention to detail and enriched experiences. That's the perspective that we have.

Normal has changed, and over time we will figure out what the 'new normal' will be. Until then there is no harm in the hospitality industry over-delivering until we find out the new accepted norms.

What are the main challenges you're personally facing right now?

The main challenge is having answers for the questions that future guests are going to ask. Some are thinking of returning as early as June, and it is a little challenging to give confirmed plans of airlines, ports etc.

I miss having a good drink and chat with so many of our wonderful guests and visitors, which is why we started doing Instagram lives to reconnect. Most of all I miss the team, as we are all working from home and communicating via live calls etc.

What have you been doing and what drinks have been getting you through lockdown?

I've been hosting Sunday Instagram [videos] on rum punch, making chocolates, maintaining health, gaining perspective, encouraging staff and deep cleaning the property.

[Meanwhile,] I've been drinking endless Ti Punches, Old Fashioneds and the Jungle Bird with the odd glass of water.

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