Restaurants in Maharashtra likely to reopen from first week of October

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Published on Sep 29, 2020 12:59 AM IST
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ByNaresh Kamath and Surendra P Gangan

Restaurants in the state are likely to begin their operations from the first week of October as the state government has assured hoteliers during their meeting with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday of receiving the requisite permissions.

The state has prepared a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) draft for the restaurants, bars, hotels and eateries in consultation with various associations representing these establishments. The draft is expected to be finalised in the next few days.

The SOP has been mandated by the tourism department of the state government has made it mandatory restaurants to screen customers and make them wear masks while on the premises. The hotels have been asked to avail a separate entry and exit, sanitise restrooms regularly, make sanitizers available, encourage digital payments and replace cloth napkins with paper napkins. The restaurants have been directed to maintain the distance of one metre between two tables. Apart from regular disinfecting the furniture, utensils and cutlery, the management has also been asked to maintain the warmth of food. They have also been directed to encourage pre-booking to avoid crowding and proper training of the staff for personal hygiene, sanitation, respiratory etiquettes and social distancing.

Valsa R Nair Singh, principal secretary, tourism department, said that they have been allowed to reopen restaurants from the first week of October. “The SOP is yet to be finalised,” she said.

The state government is expected to extend the ongoing lockdown by another month, though certain restrictions are expected to be lifted under Mission Begin Again. The restaurants are expected to be asked to maintain a distance of 6 feet between two tables and follow personal hygiene protocols. Hoteliers have opposed the idea of imposing a cap on the capacity to operate at.

“The decision will be taken once the SOP is finalised mutually. We are not against opening up activities, but in the wake of the rising number of cases, we are treading very cautiously. The restrictions have been imposed in the public interest despite huge losses of revenue to the state exchequer. It will be the responsibility of the restaurant and hotel operators to ensure safety of the customers and staff members in the wake of the pandemic,” chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has been quoted in a statement issued by his office.

The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) called it a huge relief to the restaurant sector. “The whole sector is in deep crisis as the takeaway business is not at all profitable. We know that the next six months will be very difficult but then we needed to start somewhere,” said AHAR president Shivanand Shetty.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, the former president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), echoed the sentiment. He said that social distancing and other norms will impact the whole business. “We have no choice but to adhere to the norms. This reopening will generate some revenue so we can pay the staff as well as keep the business moving, “said Kohli.

There are around 4 lakh hotels, restaurants and bars in Maharashtra.Kohli said at national level, the hotel and restaurant industry has suffered losses of about Rs1.90 lakh crore in the past six months of lockdown.

Dilip Datwani, former president of Hotels and Restaurants Association, said that though the SOP has not been finalised, the outlets are expected to operate at 50-60% of their capacity.

“Operating the restaurants at 30% is not viable and it was clarified to the government. We have been allowed to operate at 50 to 60% capacity, depending on the size of the restaurants. Blocking the alternate tables will serve the purpose of maintaining distancing of one metre. We have trained our staff members on hygiene protocols and social distancing and see no problem in following the protocol strictly,” he said.

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