Vaccinated and waiting


By Naveen Menezes and Dona Dey

As establishments wait to be allowed to function, they are ready with a fully vaccinated staff, checking a customer’s SPo2

The restaurant sector, like the salons, malls and movie theatres, was hoping to be allowed to resume business operations in Unlock 1.0. But despite their high level of preparedness, they have to wait it out and they’re not pleased.

In anticipation of Unlock 1.0, most of the restaurants, salons, and malls had vaccinated almost 90 per cent of their staff. Said Dr Kiran Kumar, Director, Gawky Goose Kitchen & Bar says, “I’m a doctor. First-hand knowledge of medicine gives me an edge. We are always on top of sanitisation and hygiene measures. All our staff are vaccinated and we are ready to face Unlock.” Hitesh Tulsani of Raahi Neo Kitchen & Bar said they had conducted vaccine drives to get their employees vaccinated and were ready to open with and sensor-based temperature screening machines and contactless sanitiser dispensers.

Battle-ready

Malls and movie theatre regulators too had upped their security protocols. Manoj Singh, cluster director of Nexus Malls (Karnataka), who regulates various malls across the city including Forum Koramangala, said that all his mall employees have been fully vaccinated. “In addition, we have installed ozonizers inside PVR Forum, which improves the air quality by 20 to 25 per cent. There are air purifiers in every mall too,” he said, adding that they expect to be included in the first non-essential phase of Unlock as they guarantee top-quality safety measures. “The moment non-essential retailers are allowed to function, the government should open malls too, unlike last year when malls were given the last preference,” Singh said. “The government usually allows the high streets to function first, but we as malls, ensure better safety. We are not asking them to consider us before them, but there should be equal treatment,” he added.

After last year’s lockdown and fear of eating in public places, Anirudh Kheny, partner at Plate Project Hospitality, shut down 1Q1 bar and restaurant and created a new, space called Suzy-Q. The restaurant, with lots of open-air seating options, was to launch in April but now Kheny says they will have to wait.“We have all our SOPS in place from last year and we will double-down on them this year,” he adds.

But restaurateurs like Debaditya Chaudhury, Director, Chowman, are taking no chances. “While we wait to open, we will focus on online deliveries. We have launched our app. Our packaging has become multi-layered to ensure that no other staff apart from the core kitchen members and delivery staff handle the parcels.”

But the Bruhat Bengaluru Hotels Association, which claims that at least 1,500 eateries and restaurants have shut down permanently in the last one year, is unhappy at not being included in Unlock 1.0.

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PC Rao, president of the Association said, “When the industry is going through a tough time, the government increased the electricity rates twice in the last six months. We were expecting the government to allow the darshinis to serve coffee and tea to customers.” The association has demanded relaxation from paying property tax, excise license fee and electricity bills by a few months. The members have also urged the authorities not to levy fine for delaying the payment of GST.

Another hotelier based in Jayanagar said, “Almost all sectors like fashion, shoes can recover their business after the lockdown. But one does not eat extra food because he or she did not have food at a restaurant during the lockdown.”

Madusudhan M, who owns a hotel in Basavanagudi, said despite giving many representations to the government, and paying huge amounts in taxes and providing employment, the restaurant sector had been ignored. He urged the government to implement tax holidays as introduced in Gujarat. He also said that using aggregator apps was not helping them much because a lot of money was going towards commissions.

Sources in the BBMP said that the government had initially thought of allowing dine-in services in Unlock 1.0 but had decided to keep it on hold for a week or two.

A clean up before unlock

Salons too, have not been included in Unlock 1.0. However, many are ready, having conducted their own vaccination drives. Says Swati Gupta, director and head of creative department, Bodycraft Spa, Salon and Clinic, “We have conducted various vaccination drives and have gotten 99.9 per cent of our employees vaccinated with first doses. The only people left out are those who are out of town. The senior-most management and our clinical team are fully vaccinated.”

Gupta is hopeful that they will soon be allowed to open, with all safety protocols in place. “For a large part of the population, grooming and a little bit of socialising are essentials. It’s not a luxury anymore,” she said.

In addition to getting all their staff vaccinated and following last year’s protocols, Gauri Spratt, manager of BBLUNT Bengaluru, says, “We will be checking oxygen saturation of customers at the gate and cutting down on salon time by doing video consultations before they come here.”

All eyes are now on Unlock 2.0 guidelines.



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Sagar Biswas

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