August 1st is Emancipation Day, but for many Belizeans, tonight is their first night of freedom. That's because all non-border related regulations have been dropped meaning, yes, you don't have to wear a mask at all and your favorite bar can now open for business. It's a step closer to our pre-COVID lives but at the same time, "normalcy" has a new meaning because while most regulations are no more, the COVID caution remains.

Still, it's good news for those in the entertainment industry whose cash flow crashed at the height of the pandemic. Courtney Menzies spoke to those business owners today and has this story.

While restaurants and casinos have been given the go-ahead to reopen, today marks the first time since 2020 that nightclubs and bars have the greenlight. And while during the daylight, they're closed, tonight is full of promise for these businesses that have been struggling for the past two years.

Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursday Restaurant & Bar
"The first year, year and a half, almost the first two years was completely dread, we weren't allowed to operate, or even when we were allowed it was a fraction of what could actually keep this place running. Since the easing of these restrictions earlier this year, late last year, where they allowed 75% seating and so on, it has improved, and now that we're at a fully reopen, we're hoping that we could get back to our better day."

And it wasn't just clubs and bars but promoters and DJ's as well - basically every stakeholder in the entertainment industry suffered a massive financial crunch.

Louis Escobar, Owner, No Fear Promotions
"The past two years have been kind like hell for us so we been through so much and we've been waiting so long and we've had so much invested in events before we went on lockdown and all our finances came to an abrupt halt so we had to really examine what our future would be right after lockdown. We had our event planned for August the 15th, and we went on lockdown the beginning of August, we already had thousands invested into our events and that's money we can't get back so we've really had to just scrap whatever we had and call on whatever friends and family we could depend on and try to survive, that's what we did, just try to survive and we're finally here today and we're so grateful that we have reached to this point that we can open back."

DJ Dalla, Promoter
"It has been rough, you hear stories of DJ's selling their equipment, artists turning call center personnel, it has been rough, everybody lost most of what they had."

And even though this is the closest we've ever been to normalcy, Belize's nightlife has permanently shifted with business owners and promoters still wary of the deadly virus.

Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursday Restaurant & Bar
"We already applied for the nightclub license, to be honest, I kind of get used to the early nights and so we are going to see how it goes. Yes we have the nightclub license as we speak but we intend to perhaps take it slow, getting back to that normalcy."

Courtney Menzies:
"So COVID has sort of changed things in a way?"

Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursday Restaurant & Bar
"Yes and some parts of it was good, getting to bed earlier than 3 in the morning, I can't knock that. So we'll see how it goes from here but I'm hoping to perhaps attract an early crowd, kind of keep some of the same standards because while we have reopened, COVID hasn't disappeared and if we're not careful, we could end up back in a lockdown, so at Thirty's we plan to go ahead responsible."

"People will be able to move around, people will be able to dance but we're going to control the numbers and I believe some of the staff are saying they're going to continue use their masks so it's a personal choice now so I think we need to support it either way."

DJ Dalla, Promoter
"This is like you having a new girlfriend, you know for the first everything is good. But I must say, we need to still take it with caution because before you know it, if we don't do the right thing, we can have another spread and we could go right back, but I am happy but I must say to everybody, I think you should still carry your ask, use your discretion and use it, but we are happy, it's long overdue and we need this."

So even though it's not full speed ahead, those hungry for entertainment won't have to look far to get their fix.

Louis Escobar, Owner, No Fear Promotions
"I love what I do that is why I bring that level of entertainment to Belize, I love what we do and we love when people enjoy themselves. I actually had a career as an accountant and I stopped being an accountant just to get into the entertainment industry because I love it so much and we just want to build up back the entertainment industry back to where it was and go forward form there."

"We're not a concert, but we're a concert sized event, we have to do all the logistic work as if it were a concert so we are expecting well in the thousands for this event and we have some brand new ideas, we've been sitting down for two years and I have some brand new ideas, you have seen some of past Project X and this one will be our biggest yet."

DJ Dalla, Promoter
"There's a lot of events, from they get wind that they're going to drop the restrictions, a lot of promoters, I mean my dates are booked until almost December. This is light, this is where we make our living, this is what we do, you can't tell us to find something else to do, this is what we do so I am very happy for this new SI and I am happy the restrictions are dropped."

Channel 7

Night Life Back In Full Swing; Entertainment Industry Pleased

Bars and Night Clubs will reopen tonight for the first time in two years. It has been a long, hard, fought battle for entertainers and club owners following the implementation of COVID-19 regulation that brought the industry to a standstill. Many of them lost their only source of economic income. Well, all of that is in the past now. As of April first, bars and night clubs are no longer required to remain closed. This comes as good news to stakeholders in the industry. News Five's Paul Lopez takes a look.

Troy "D.J. Dalla" Flowers, Belizean Entertainer

"Well excuse me�.foul eena foul coop for two years. I think tonight, the first night, you watch all the clubs and the bars and the bars, the other bars, the female bars and so, it will be crowded I am telling you."

Paul Lopez, Reporting

D.J.'s, promoters and night club owners are celebrating the lifting of restrictions that prevented them from hosting public events for the past two years. Louis Escobar, the owners of No Fear Promotions and D.J.s suffered great loses.

Louis Escobar, Owner, No Fear Promotions

"A part from our finances being abruptly taken away, we just have to find ways to survive. I am not ashamed to say I lost my house, my life savings, and we in the entertainment industry, we have really had to come together and try to survive."

Troy "D.J. Dalla" Flowers, Belizean Entertainers

"We kept wondering when will this be over, when will we be able to get back in clubs and events. It has really been a struggle. I have said it and I will say it again; a lot of artist and D.J.s sold out their equipment and never mih the work. It was a struggle."

There appeared to be no end in sight to these restrictions, until recently when the Minister of Health passed a new Statutory Instrument noting that COVID-19 no longer poses an imminent threat. Now, events like Project X are making a huge comeback.

Louis Escobar, Owner, No Fear Promotions

"I am just so excited to introduce some new ideas we have coming to our fifth Project X. We in the entertainment industry, as you can see I already have my shirt to promote. It is the first of April. Things are opening up today and I am hitting the ground running, because I am so excited to bring our biggest event to date to the Belizean public."

Troy "D.J. Dalla" Flowers, Belizean Entertainers

"You know like when you get a new girlfriend and all the excitement, this is it. I have been in dialogue with the Minister of Health and I must commend him for reaching out back to me. Every minute I was like when we could do something, when we could do. And so, mien it is a relief for me, because the industry has been taking a licking."

Thirsty Thursday is a popular night club in Belize City that has had to adapt to the COVID19 restrictions to remain afloat. Linford Rosado, owner of the establishment says the dancehall will remain closed, at least for now. But, customers can still enjoy a night out at the venue.

Linford Rosado, Owner, Thirsty Thursdays

�"It is good to be back having the country open back, things to normal. I'd like to thank the people who supported us all through the bad days. We got good support from the Belizean public. For tonight, we are going to take things one step at a time. We are going to still follow some of the regulations in terms of numbers of people. People are still making reservations for tables and I say we creep back in. We are going to start the music early, seven o'clock, start take reservations, food drinks, there is not going to be any dance floor tonight."

D.J. Dalla agrees that caution cannot be thrown to the wind. While it is unlikely that party goers will be wearing their masks because they are no longer required to, there is a lot to learn from the last two years to prevent any further lockdowns.

Troy "D.J. Dalla" Flowers, Belizean Entertainers

"Use your discretion, use your masks still and that will lessen the spread of the virus. To go back in a lockdown would be wow, devastating I nuh know weh I wah do then. I nuh know, actually weh we wah duh then. I might have to ask you mek wih come work dah Channel Five."

Channel 5