Restaurants, pubs brace themselves for another lean period

Government’s new COVID-19 rules come as no surprise to many restaurants that had already started imposing curbs on patrons

The government’s restrictions on seating arrangements in bars, restaurants, pubs, and clubs in Bengaluru Urban and Rural as well in other districts, including Mysuru, Udupi, and Bidar, has not come as a surprise to restaurateurs. Many restaurants in Bengaluru have already adopted such measures while others admitted that patronage had dropped over the last fortnight.

Less than a week ago, clusters were reported in two popular pubs in Bengaluru, with many employees testing positive for COVID-19. Though staff members were all asymptomatic, the incident had prompted owners of several hotels and restaurants to impose restrictions such as reducing the number of tables and not accepting booking for parties even before the government announced new guidelines on Friday.

Vidyarthi Bhavan, a popular south Indian food joint, for example, has already brought down the number of tables for its dine-in facility by 30. Restaurateur Arun Adiga told The Hindu that patrons have been urged to call ahead for reservations, as walk-ins are being discouraged. This is one way to reduce crowding outside the eatery, he said. They can also place orders online and collect them at the designated time. “We had to take this hard decision in the light of the spike in cases in the city,” Mr. Adiga said.

The Bruhat Bangalore Hotels’ Association (BBHA) is also in the process of drawing up an action plan for its members to ensure that the chain of spread is curtailed. The BBHA and the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) have sent petitions to both the Central and State governments to consider staff in the hotel industry as frontline workers and cover them in the vaccination drive.

Restaurants are already experiencing the effects of the second wave. BBHA president P.C. Rao pointed out that over the past week, business had dropped, as had the room rentals. “The hospitality sector has incurred a loss of approximately ₹500 crore and several people who were employed in the industry lost jobs over the past year. Several hotels are self-imposing restrictions,” he said.

Manu Chandra, restaurateur and head of the NRAI’s Bengaluru chapter, pointed out that the mean age of hotel employees was not more than 28 years. “Employees in the hotel industry are prone to multiple points of contact. It therefore makes sense to cover them in the vaccination drive,” he said, and added that the NRAI had also drawn up a playbook on measures to be taken to check the spread. “The playbook has been widely distributed across the country.”

Karunakar Hegde, vice-president of the Federation of Wine Merchants’ Association, Karnataka, said the federation had intimated liquor licence holders on preventive measures to be taken. “We have also given training to employees of several bars and restaurants in the city. With reduction in business, the number of tables have also been reduced,” he said.

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