MUMBAI: The Mumbai police on Tuesday ordered the closure of pubs, bars and discotheques till March 31. “Dance bars and drinking joints are places that are overcrowded and have very little breathing space, increasing the possibility of contracting coronavirus among patrons. Hence, we have asked all establishments to shut down operations till the end of this month,” said deputy police commissioner Pranay Ashok. Those not following the directive will face action, he said.
Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), which represents over 1 lakh players in the country, issued an advisory recommending temporary closure of restaurants from Wednesday. Around three dozen restaurants, including Bombay Canteen, The Table, Flying Saucer and Indigo, have decided to adhere to the recommendations amid the government increasingly stressing on the importance of social distancing as part of its efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The restaurant industry has been seeing a drop of over 30 per cent in business with “footfalls dropping every hour” at some eateries.
The Rs 4 lakh crore restaurant industry has been hit after the government banned tourist visas and directed the shuttering of outlets in malls in some cities.
While the NRAI has recommended closure of venues till March 31 or “till such a time when no new coronavirus cases are reported”, it has left the decision to the proprietors. “This (recommendation of shutting down of operations) will result in a significant financial strain on the sector, but in view of the serious health risk to lakhs of employees and millions of patrons amid the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country, we have gone ahead with the advisory,” said NRAI president Anurag Katriar.
Meanwhile, to ensure that all pubs, bars and discotheques in the city remain shut till March 31, Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh has asked zonal DCPs to keep strict vigil in their areas.
Since there is no clarity when normalcy would be restored, the food services sector, which has high fixed operating costs, is staring at losses and potential job cuts. The industry is seeking financial relief from the government and support from other stakeholders to battle the crisis amid the economic slowdown.
“This is an extraordinary situation and beyond our control. Supports like converting fixed rentals to variable revenue share, moratorium on loan repayment, and deferred payment of permit room renewal licence fee will go a long way in curtailing astronomical losses,” said Katriar.
“Footfalls are dropping every hour, every minute at our standalone outlets,” Anjan Chatterjee, CEO of Speciality Restaurants, India’s largest chain of fine-dining brands, told TOI before the NRAI advisory was issued.
And customers who turn up at the eating joints are staying off from meat dishes because of the Covid-19 scare. “There has been a serious impact on the sale of non-vegetarian dishes and those containing eggs. People are playing safe by choosing muesli and other cereals and vegetarian dishes,” said Gudiya Chadha, founder, All Elements Cafe.