The state government has agreed to allow restaurant owners in the state to provide dine-in service from the first week of October. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray made the promise to a delegation of restaurant owners from Pune at a meeting held in Mumbai.
The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and Excise Secretary Valsa Nair Singh. Apart from representatives of Pune restaurant owners association, those from Mumbai and Nagpur too participated in the meet.
“We had a fruitful meeting with CM Uddhav Thackeray and his team about reopening of dine-in facility at the restaurants. The CM has assured us that the restaurant will be allowed to provide the service from October first week. He has asked us to ensure that the standard operating procedure (SOP) required to be followed by the restaurants are strictly being adhered to and safety of the patrons is not compromised,” said Ganesh Shetty, President of Pune Restaurant and Hoteliers’ Association (PRAHA).
Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said that the government has prepared an SOP for the restaurants to follow.
After remaining completely shut for two and a half months, the state government had allowed the restaurants to open on June 1 but only for takeaway and home deliveries and there’s a complete embargo on dine-in service. With the continued restriction on business, restaurant owners in Maharashtra had grown impatient and were running from pillar to post to obtain permission to start dine-in service.
Various restaurant owners’ associations had written to and met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar pointing out that the lockdown has put the restaurant business in a precarious condition and if they are not allowed to operate at increased capacity with the opening of dine-in, many will be forced to shut shops.
Restaurant owners had argued that while the state government was allowing state transport buses (MSRTC) and city bus services in Mumbai (BEST) and Pune (PMPML) with almost full capacity, continued restrictions on restaurants did not make sense, especially when the restaurant owners have promised that they will ensure social distancing and sanitation within their premises.
Last week, BJP MLA from Shivajinagar (Pune) constituency Siddharth Shirole– who is also a restaurateur -had also written to CM Thackeray asking him to lift the “unfair restrictions” on restaurants. States such as Karnataka and Pujab have already allowed restaurants to provide dine-in service. As per a survey report’ Indian Restaurant Industry-Mid COVID-19′, brought out by Zomato, about 40 per cent restaurants may shut down permanently due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among this lot, dining out eateries are worst affected while only take-away and delivery kitchens wouldn’t be as badly affected.
CM Thackeray has also made another promise to the restaurant and bar owners another important relief – on the state excise license fee front.
“He has promised us that the excise license fee will be revised on pro-rata basis against the balance operational months of the current year,” said Shetty.
Owing to financial losses caused by the lockdown, rest-o-bar and permit room owners in Pune are not willing to pay the annual excise license renewal fee. Although it’s been over six months into the new year, about 75 per cent bar owners have not paid the annual fee and are waiting for the relief which now CM Thackeray has promised.
Earlier, in March 2020 the State Excise Department had allowed the license holders to pay the annual fee in three in three instalments — 25 per cent by June 30, another 25 per cent by September 30 and the rest 50 per cent by December 31 owing to business disruptions caused by Covid-19 lockdown. After extension of the lockdown, the department had further extended the deadline by allowing the license holders to pay the fee in two equal installments – first by end of September 30 and second by December 31. An annual license renewal fee of Rs 8 lakh is paid by the bar owners (holding FL-III license) at the start of financial year. There are about 2500 FL-III license holders in Pune.
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