Restaurants, shops likely to take a week to fully open
Shortage of labour, limited operating hours proving to be a deterrent especially in hospitality sector
The government has allowed all shops to open and restaurants to allow dine-in at 50% occupancy rate from Monday, but the industry is expected to take at least a week to fully open up.
One of the biggest problems traders and those in the hospitality sector are currently facing is the shortage of labour, as many who had returned to their hometowns both within the State and outside, are yet to return.
“Since there was no guarantee on when we would be allowed to re-open, our employees are not yet back. We have begun the process and it will take at least a week, especially for those outside the State. While Karnataka has eased restrictions further, it may not be the case in other States,” said Chandrashekhar Hebbar, president, Karnataka Regional Hotels and Restaurants Federation.
However, smaller shops will mostly open up on Monday. “This year most of our employees remained in the city, a majority of shopkeepers have paid them full salaries. So we will open from Monday. And even if there is a labour shortage, small shops can easily manage,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a senior trader from Chickpet.
The other concern weighing heavily on the minds of businesses is vaccination for their workforce. People in the hospitality industry have been considered frontline workers and nearly 50% of them have received the first dose, sources in the industry said. However, that is not the case with traders and proprietors of small shops.
“Parallel to unlocking, the government should vaccinate all those working in shops and all other sectors that are opening up on a war footing,” said Rajashekhar, who runs a clothing shop in the CBD area.
Mr. Hebbar added that the association has issued guidelines to all its members that only those who have received at least one shot be posted for work at restaurants. “We have also mandated that all hotels have a pulse oximeter, thermometer and display readings of employees prominently,” said Mr. Hebbar, adding there will be only two chairs per table and no additional chairs will be allowed.
Manu Chandra, head of Bengaluru Chapter of National Restaurants Association of India, said the present guidelines – 50% occupancy rate, the 5 p.m. deadline to close operations, weekend lockdown, and ban on serving liquor for patrons dining-in – will make things difficult.
“We can only open for lunch with no liquor and no air-conditioning on weekdays. Given these restrictions, not many outlets are enthusiastic about rushing to open businesses,” he said. Mr. Chandra, too, appealed to the State government for sops such as waivers of licence fees, excise license renewal fees, rebate in property tax and fixed electricity deposit rates.
Meanwhile, all medical services like dentists, opthamologists, dermatologists and orthopedicians who were shut during the lockdown will also tentatively open up from Monday. “We have asked our members to start seeing patients with safety protocols. Some have decided to insist on vaccination certificates for patients. The community is still wary and we will take it as the pandemic situation develops,” said Dr. Sudarshan Sajjan, Secretary, Indian Dental Association, Bengaluru. Gyms are also allowed to open with 50% occupancy from Monday. (Optional cut for print)
However, cutting across sectors establishments only see a slow return to normalcy. “Going by our experience from last year, even though we may open shops, it will take time for customers to return. Still there is fear of a third wave and also coming out of a nearly two month lockdown, people will be low on disposable incomes. We expect a recovery path of at least three months. But if the third wave hits us by then, we are doomed,” said Purushottam, manager at a home appliances store in Rajajinagar.