The Bangladesh Restaurant Owners' Association has urged the government to allow a reopening of restaurants, pointing out that the owners have already incurred losses to the tune of around Tk50,000 crore, with 30% of restaurants being closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
"The restaurant sector is one of the most affected sectors in this pandemic. At present, though restaurants are open, only take-away services are allowed. The restaurants affiliated with online delivery are only 2-3% of the total number of restaurants," Imran Hasan, secretary general of the organisation, said at a press conference held at the association's office at Purana Paltan in the capital on Saturday.
He added that around 30 lakh workers work in 60,000 restaurants in divisional cities, districts and upazilas. Besides, about two crore people's livelihood depends on this sector. They urged the government for a stimulus package for workers or food aid.
As part of their 8-point demand, they requested the government to be permitted to reopen restaurants in line with health hygiene rules or allow them to accommodate 50% of the seating capacity in a restaurant.
The owners also demanded long term collateral-free loans with no or minimum interest rate from the Small and Medium Enterprise sector, which owners can use as running capital to keep their business running.
Restaurant owners and workers should be considered as front liners in the pandemic and be vaccinated on an emergency basis, they demanded.
Imran Hasan said that 98% of owners in the divisional, district and upazila cities, including Dhaka, run their businesses by renting places. They have asked for government co-operation in a waiving of rents considering the situation in the Covid-19 circumstances.
Imran Hossain also alleged that pressure is being exerted on restaurant owners for the payment of VAT and tax in this time of crisis, which is not acceptable at all.
"We have our backs against the wall. Allow us to open our restaurants and let us live. We will stand in front of every press club in the country if required, he added.
Association President Osman Gani and First Secretary General Firoz Alam were among those present at the briefing.