Owners say that they have seen their business cut down by 80 to 90 percent since the government imposed a nationwide lockdown. Credit: Representational image

Guwahati: As the Unlock phased in gradually owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy has been limping back to its normal economic state. The hospitality industry has been among the various sectors which have taken a massive hit with customers shying away from availing of their services. Owners say that they have seen their business cut down by 80 to 90 percent since the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.

“As restaurant owners, we suffered lot because of the pandemic, we cut our staff 20-30 percent, made our menu short,” said chef Atul Lahkar. Owing to economic regression due to the lockdown, Lahkar had to close down one of his restaurants, ‘Khorikaa’ to curb his expenses.

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Col (retd) RK Choudhary, owner of ‘Choudhary Cabin’ situated at one of the busiest parts of the city, Fancy Bazar says he has never seen such a downfall in this sector as felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have been in this business for the past 20 years; I have such a bad experience in my life. As the lockdown was declared all of a sudden so as a result we had to face a lot of problems with our staff, with our stock and also with our customers,” Choudhary said.

“We have incurred monetary losses; it was difficult to pay the rent. We had to cut our profit margin to pay the salary of our staff members. We haven’t earned anything during those days of lockdown but we did all to take care of our employees” stated Nabanita Mazumdar Bhattacharya, owner of the restaurant chain, ‘Fat Belly’.

In Assam, which has seen a static rise in the number of coronavirus cases, phased relaxations were issued and restaurants have been allowed to reopen from August while initially with restrictions after four months of shutdown.

Restaurants have been allowed to operate between Monday to Friday till 5 PM beginning from the month of August, however business establishments were allowed to open only on one side of the road each day alternatively, then restaurants could only open their shops only thrice in a week.

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With all restrictions withheld by the government, restaurants still haven’t been able to make up their losses as footfall has significantly reduced. “It’s been a month since I opened my restaurant, initially it was really bad. The turnout has gone down by 60-70 percent. Slowly it’s coming up but not the way it used to be,” said Col Choudhary.

Restaurant owners look up to the government in hope of getting some relief in this crisis. “We are suffering also because the government is not doing what we need. Some tax reductions and concessions on rent would help this industry manifold,” said chef Atul Lahkar.

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