The food and beverage industry stares at an uncertain future, several owners said after the government’s close-down order.
Several restaurant owners told Metro that while closure seemed the right way to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, they were uncertain about the future if the shutdown exceeded a month. The bigger players can perhaps sustain a longer shutdown than the rest but the fear is looming large over every business, big or small.
The government has ordered the closure of all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, massage parlours, amusement parks and zoos till March 31 to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“I don’t know what is in store. We don’t have a precedent. I can bear with losses for a month at most. If the situation persists for months, then the industry could be on the brink of collapse,” said Shiladitya Chaudhury, owner of Oudh 1590, Chowman and Chapter II. He owns almost 20 outlets in the city and employs a workforce of around 800. “The rents are huge. The wages are also substantial. Most our staff live near the outlets they are employed in. I will have to keep paying for their accommodation and food,” he told Metro.
Debraj Bose, who owns the Park Street franchise of Pa Pa Ya, said the restaurant closed on Friday evening, even before the government order.
“Our primary focus should be the safety of our patrons and staff. But I cannot predict about the future. All I can say is that things will get pushy if the lockdown continues for over a month. I am just hoping it doesn’t,” said Bose, who has 56 employees, most of them from the suburbs.
Bose said the perishable stock was all used up because he had been mulling closure for the past few days.
The employees of these joints are at the risk of losing their livelihood. A 22-year-old man from Thakurpukur has been working at a bar in Esplanade area for a year after his father, a taxi driver, took ill. He gets Rs 250 per day at the bar, excluding tips from patrons. “For me, no work means no pay. I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Urvika Kanoi, the owner of The Daily Cafe at Deshapriya Park that works closely with farmers, hoped the government would come up with some sops, subsidies and incentives to revive the sector once the crisis is over. “If we are staring at an uncertain future, they are at the risk of losing their livelihood.”