Facing near business shutdown, say restaurants as Bengal further tightens COVID curbs

By PTI
KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Saturday restricted the number of invitees to wedding ceremonies and family gatherings to 50 to check the surge in coronavirus cases, an official said.

The state administration on Friday ordered shutdown of shopping malls, beauty parlours, restaurants, bars, sports complexes, gyms, spas and swimming pools and directed that markets would remain open for limited hours – from 7 am to 10 am and between 3 pm and 5 pm.

All “retail outlets providing services relating to healthcare, electricity, telecom, transport, grocery, sweetmeats, milk supply will remain outside the confines of the embargo”, a government order said on Saturday.

“In continuation of yesterdays order, we have decided to restrict the number of invitees to 50 people at wedding ceremonies and family gatherings and they must wear masks, use sanitiser and maintain physical distance,” the official said.

The state government earlier allowed 200 people in marriage ceremonies after the COVId-19 situation had improved in the state.

On Friday, the state also prohibited all forms of social, cultural, academic, entertainment-related gatherings.

Meanwhile, big and small eating places in the state are faced with a “near-shutdown in business”, a top official of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India (HRAEI) claimed.

The state government on Friday ordered shutdown of all restaurants, shopping malls, beauty parlours, bars, sports complexes, gyms, spas and swimming pools with immediate effect until further orders.

Restaurants are allowed to carry on home delivery of food.

HRAEI president Sudesh Poddar told PTI only less than 5 per cent of the total restaurants have the wherewithal for home delivery service and the rest were just experiencing a brief turnaround since last November and Christmas-New Year season.

However, the crowds again started thinning since March as report of COVID-19 escalation came from other parts of country and the last blow was the state government notification.

Poddar said “While many eateries could not open after the last lockdown, others tried to stay afloat. We are afraid some of these will close down again even after the pandemic situation eases.”

Poddar’s Manthan Bar and Restaurant had to close down its premises after the notification which was sudden, he said.

A spokesman of Aminia Restaurant, a popular eating chain themed on Mughlai cuisine, said as the dining sale has “converted into online sales so we haven’t suffered much loss. Maybe 1 per cent sale has been reduced not more than that.”

“Our home delivery has garnered more sales as compared to that through other food apps as the prices are quite less when it comes to our home delivery so people prefer this more. The total delivery sale has gone up by 13-14 per cent and only 3-4 per cent increase is through online apps. The rest is through our own delivery process,” he said.

The delivery sale at Aminia is a combination of its home delivery and delivery through certain apps, he said, adding this time the sale hasn’t been impacted that much due to this sudden announcement.

The sale is not affected much as the dining sale has been converted into home delivery.

Debaditya Choudhury, of Chinese cuisine restaurant chain Chowman said “Our delivery sales were quick to pick up even during the lockdown last year and we did quite well. We are much prepared this time too and I am sure we will do even better than the last year as we have added at least 50 bikers to our own delivery fleet.”

“Since our dine-in will remain close, few staff have been asked to stay back at home for the time being but they will get all benefits from the company and we will keep supporting them as we always did.”

He said though the announcement by the state government was sudden for everyone, “it was quite anticipated by us and I am sure other F&B companies, looking at the current scenario.”

Restaurants were allowed to carry on home delivery of food.