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Covid-19 surge hits resurgent restaurant business in Maharashtra



Maharashtra’s restaurateurs have a cruel summer ahead of them it seems. In a meeting with the Excise Minister of the state, they were told that their plea for a rebate on license fee and option to pay in installments had been rejected by the Finance Ministry. Restaurant businesses in the state will need to pay the license fee for next financial year (2021-22) in full and in advance by March 31, 2021—”While the government had already curtailed business hours by imposing a curfew and restricting our business”, said Anurag Katriar, the president of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Executive Director & CEO, deGustibus Hospitality—who was present at the meeting.

Katriar spoke to ETHospitalityWorld exclusively about the state of the business in Maharashtra.

“It’s a very sorry state just when the business had started to pick up and stabilized at a respectable level, though nowhere close to the old numbers. This has come as a big body blow,” he said adding, “What, I’m worried about is that once the business started picking up, we had started rehiring, and people had started coming back from wherever they were. And now suddenly, I don’t know what to do, because most of our business is the dinner business and that is gone (with the 8 pm curfew). It’s virtually, it’s impossible to run a restaurant like this.”

Kartiar felt that the malls and restaurants had been singled out. “If you have to fight the pandemic, you have to do more testing, identify people and treat them,” he said.

Curfews have been implemented in other parts of the country as well, with Punjab getting outlets to shut by 11 pm and Rajasthan and Delhi also implementing some form of restrictions. From the point of view of NRAI, Katriar reiterated, “We are continuing to engage with the state governments, because these are largely state subjects. But honestly, not making much headway as we speak.”

In Maharashtra, the curfew has hit restaurants badly but it seems things will get tougher, with the threat of a lockdown in the air.

“In the meeting that we had with the Chief Minister, there was a consensus that 90 percent of restaurants are following Covid norms. There are 10 percent, who aren’t, and we offer to help in identifying them, and even the government came up with a circular saying that anybody found violating the Covid norms would be shut down while the Epidemic Act was in place,” he said adding that the curfew penalised everyone including the outlets who were following all the norms.

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