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Eateries fear business loss

Arifur Rahman Rabbi
15 Jan 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 15 Jan 2022 00:39:36
Eateries fear business loss
A restaurant in Dhaka displays a message saying it is mandatory to show coronavirus vaccine certificate to enter the eatery. Restaurateurs say their businesses plummeted by around 20 per cent after the govt issued 11-point virus restrictions on Jan 10 – TPB Photo

Restaurant owners said the government’s order to allow customers into eateries after showing covid vaccination certificates was “unrealistic” that would negatively affect their business, already struggling to recover from the pandemic shock.

“Our business took a hit since the government announced the restrictions on Jan 10,” said Imran Hasan, general secretary of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association (BROA).

He said the restaurant owners met on Tuesday to discuss the government’s directives. “Everyone agreed that the decision regarding restaurants was unrealistic. We request the government to rescind this decision. Give us a chance to run our business,” he told The Busines Post.

BROA said around 60,000 owners and 30 lakh workers are involved in this hotel-restaurant business. “There are 4,78,000 restaurants in the country employing 2 crore people directly and indirectly,” Hasan said.

Restaurant businesses were heavily hit after various restrictions were imposed to curb the coronavirus infection, forcing many owners to lay off workers and shut down.

“We suffered a loss of around Tk 60,000 crore over the two years. Around 30 per cent (or 1,43,400) of the restaurants had to shut down since the pandemic hit the country,” Hasan claimed without providing details.

He said the ownership of half of the other restaurants had changed. Many of these new owners are struggling with their businesses. “We haven’t received any incentive from the government since the virus outbreak,” the BROA leader said.

Delwar Hossain, manager of Nawabi Voj Restaurant, said that many people who come to eat at the restaurant do not want to show vaccine certificates and sometimes feel annoyed. “We have to turn away many customers as don’t have certificates,” he said, adding that it was hurting their business. 

Meanwhile, many restaurants allowed customers without checking their vaccine certificates on the first day of the restrictions. Private company employee Atikur Rahman, who was having breakfast at a restaurant in Rampura on Thursday, claimed that he was fully vaccinated but had forgotten to bring the certificate.

Many people appreciated the government’s decision about the mandatory vaccine certificate, noting that similar moves had helped other countries curb infections. But Mahbub, the owner of Siraji Hotel on RK Mission road, told The Business Post that they had no way to verify the certificates’ authenticity. 

BROA’s Hasan said turning away people would mean losing customers and business. “We’ll monitor the situation for two days and hold a meeting to decide on the future course of action,” he said.

Restauranter Mahbub said they were considering an alternative. “If the situation does not improve, we’ll have to introduce the takeaway system,” he said. “That’ll be the only way to survive but it too will be tough.”

A man shows his vaccine certificate before entering the restaurant
– TPB Photo

Staring at uncertain future

Bangladesh on Friday registered 4,438 new Covid-19 cases as the daily infection rate rose to 14.66 per cent. The country also logged six deaths, pushing the tally to 28,129. The test positivity rate has been upward since the start of the year, rising from 2.43 per cent on January 1.

The caseload reached 16,09,042, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

With the coronavirus situation deteriorating in recent days, restauranters say they are worried about keeping their businesses running. Thousands of workers had lost jobs when the country went into virus lockdowns.

Abdur Rahim, a waiter at a restaurant in Rampura, told The Business Post that the previous restaurant was closed during the coronavirus outbreak, forcing him to leave the city and go back to his village. Millions of people like him had to exhaust their savings to survive.

He got a job when the situation improved. Rahim said he was scared at the thought of another spell of lockdown that could render him jobless again.

BROA’s Hasan said their sales had plummeted by around 10-20 per cent.

“We’ll be able to recover gradually if we’re allowed to continue our business. We need the government’s assistance to survive,” he told The Business Post.