Restaurant owners warn of opening eateries across country

ISLAMABAD: All Pakistan Restaurants Association on Friday warned the government that it will open eateries across the country if they are not allowed to resume work by May 30.

Members of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the association in a press conference said that around 100,000 restaurants across the country will reopen by June 1.

JAC members said five million workers, vendors and relevant stakeholders were jobless since the government shut hotel business in mid March.

The association’s president and JAC chairman, Sheikh Abdul Waheed, said the government had allowed takeaway service but it benefitted only a handful of multinational fast food outlets as majority of the local restaurants did not have such clientele.

Say five million workers, vendors and other stakeholders are jobless since closure of hotel business

He said the restaurants had paid salaries to the employees for two months but it had become impossible to continue to pay them since there was no business at all because of the closure of eatries.

He further said the restaurants were more secure than travelling on train, plane and public transport as they had ample space to ensure social distancing.

JAC central leader Chaudhry Mohammad Farooq said since there was no dinning service available, labourers and low-paid workers could not find a decent place to eat.

He said such people could be seen eating on footpaths or on the roadside.

Mr Farooq said the government had been requested time and again to issue standard operating procedures (SOPs) for reopening restaurants but the authorities paid no heed to their request.

The restaurant owners have therefore decided to resume business even if the government fails to issue SOPs, he said.

JAC member Sain Mohammad Ijaz said the restaurants were providing entry-level jobs to educated and semi-educated people.

He said the sudden closure of restaurants had put jobs of thousands of people at stake since the owners had themselves become jobless.

He said that their association is ready to give an undertaking to the government to implement social distancing policy and ensure proper cleanliness and hygiene.

The government, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, had closed down markets, restaurants and public places in March. The lockdown was however eased earlier this month. Eatries were allowed to start takeaway and delivery services. The government, however, has prohibited dine-in service in hotels and restaurants.

The restaurants association has also demanded relief package from the government in order to sustain the losses it suffered due to the lockdown.

The representatives of hotels and restaurants association also met Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat.

They sought revision in gas tariff and compensation to their employees from the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution and from the social security department during the lockdown.

Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed assured them of extending his support.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2020