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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Mumbai: Hoteliers, owners of restaurants and small businesses apprehensive over new curbs

From Sunday, the Maharashtra government-imposed restrictions, asking restaurants, malls, cinema halls and public places to shut down by 8 pm. The restrictions also stop more than five people from gathering together in public places after 8pm.

Written by Sadaf Modak , Sanjana Bhalerao , Laxman Singh | Mumbai |
March 29, 2021 11:59:22 pm
Many restaurant owners said that most of their clientele comprise of people who step out after 6pm.

Night curb directives imposed by the Maharashtra government which kicked off from Sunday night has caused trepidation among businesses, with those associated with the hospitality, food and beverages sector fearing that stringent rules could cripple the industry.

From Sunday, the Maharashtra government-imposed restrictions, asking restaurants, malls, cinema halls and public places to shut down by 8 pm. The restrictions also stop more than five people from gathering together in public places after 8pm.

Industry association says they will approach the chief minister and tourism minister to urge for a roll-back of these new curfew norms.

“We were one of the last to reopen during Mission Begin Again. While restaurants were allowed to reopen in October last year, it was with a limited capacity. There were similar restrictions put during New Year’s Eve when we were directed to shut at 11pm. Most restaurants have had to cut down on staff and are yet to get back on track financially. There could have been a stricter adherence to social-distancing than a blanket shutdown order like this,” said a restaurant owner in Dadar.

“We are already functioning at 50 per cent capacity. On weekdays, restaurants are full only to 20 percent of this limit or there are times when there is not a single customer in the restaurant. Between 8-11pm, we end up serving more customers than the whole day. The current restrictions are only going to cause us more losses,” said a cafe owner in Andheri.

Hotel and Restaurants Association of Western India (HRAWI) has said the new curb could lead to a shutdown of about 30 percent of hotels, as it will become unviable to run business.

“After an ease in lockdown, many restaurants and hotels opened in between October and December. Owners spent a lot to put businesses back in order. Now this has happened. Hotels and lunch businesses are not there as corporates are not working or they have adopted work from home. In any case, the lunch business was about 20 per cent of the entire business and dinner is about 90 per cent. Dinner business starts after 8pm, and hotels are being shut at that time. So, it completely becomes unviable to keep your business open,” said Pradeep Shetty, Senior Vice President of HRAWI.

“Consequences of this will be to start cutting down employees. Already, about 30% of the hotels that existed before the lockdown shut down permanently. With new curbs, more than 30% could face the same fate,” warned Shetty. Hoteliers said online deliveries could keep only 20% of the businesses operational. HRAWI is planning to write to the state government, demanding a reversal of the decision.

Shop owners in malls have also complained that random testing at malls and restricted store timings, is likely to slow the demand for big products.

Random testing at crowded places

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), last week directed that rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 infections be carried out at random at crowded places in Mumbai, including malls, railway stations, bus depots, khau galli, markets, tourist places, and government offices.

The move has kept many shoppers away from markets and malls. In a statement last Saturday, the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) has asked the BMC to consider lowering the number of random rapid antigen tests required to be carried out at malls in Mumbai.

“The move to carry out random testing is likely to spread fear among the public, dissuade genuine shoppers who have slowly returned to shopping centres and put into motion a spiralling effect on modern retail that could derail the recovery of the segment.” The statement further added that malls have a relatively low count of daily visitors.

Hawkers in the city have also said the night restrictions will see them losing 70 to 80 percent of their revenue as sales are high during the evening time. “Those who depend on daily income will suffer a lot. How will they survive? During the evening, sales of perishables and non-perishables is high. It starts around 4pm and ends near about 9pm. Taking note of new curbs, police started shutting down hawking businesses from 7pm, “said Syed Haider Imam, General Secretary of AITUC Hawkers Union.

Many hawkers have come back from their hometown recently and have started setting up businesses. But with new curbs amid rise in Covid-19 cases they are facing uncertainty. “We have exhausted all our savings. In the last three months, whatever I have earned is going to enough to run my family. I don’t have money to pay my children’s school fee. After several requests to school management and by paying some amount, they allowed my son to appear for exams. I don’t know how we will manage things since there is night curfew which will impact our business, “said Navin Gupta, a hawker from Kurla.

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