Ajit JohnThere could be something to cheer for the people of Goa perhaps with plans afoot to allow restaurants to commence operations. Restaurants are looking to reopen on June 15. This may be good news for the industry which has been on the wrong end of the stick for a very long time. With business having collapsed and many resorting to deliveries to sustain operations this bit of news could not have come at a better time. They had also requested the government to remove the cap on fifty percent seating in the restaurant because business anyway was poor and this would be a cap they could do without. Restaurateurs had interesting reactions.Amey Naik of Peep Kitchen said he had not received any notification to that effect either from the government or the industry body. He said “The demand to remove the cap of fifty percent will affect restaurants differently and this will be because of their size. The bigger restaurants will not have a problem. We block alternate tables and yet people would stand in line waiting for their chance. If it a small restaurant they will be hit very hard. The business at the end of the day is all about volumes. We were hit and we had to let go of staff. If this cap goes and business improves then we will have to hire but that will be done in phases”. He said that would all depend if the number of cases reduced giving people the confidence to step out in crowded places.Daad Desai the man behind Ritz said he had kept all his restaurants open because when he decided to close them, the workers started resigning and leaving. To retain them he said he was forced to stay open. He felt it was a good move now to open the restaurants because according to his estimates, if this had continued for a couple of more months, the entire industry would have collapsed. He said “We have loans to repay and business has to resume. We have to take care and follow all the rules otherwise we will have a reoccurrence of the number increasing dramatically and creating problems for all of us.”Danzil Pereira of Café Ave Maria said they would continue to focus on takeaways because that would be the safe thing to do. He would like to continue with the cap set at 50 percent with customers allowed to walk in, pick up their purchases and leave. He would like this to continue till the cases dropped to a minimum. He felt it was better to feel safe than sorry. Jessica Rebello who runs a café felt it was like a no win situation. She said “Health comes first without a doubt. We will be open for more than fifty percent. It is risky but we will have to maintain all the protocols. If cases reduce then I would open my outlet. I have already started getting workers and will be fully operational by the end of the month if the cases keep dropping. I will then be ready with all my staff.” The problems caused by the virus was visible with five to six restaurants contacted by this journalist were shut, either because the staff had left or the owner felt it was not a business worth staying in at least for the time being. Kuldeep Singh of Awadh restaurant said they would be open to operating with a fifty percent cap but their issue had to be understood in light of the fact they were not operational now. He said he had no idea when it would resume. Perhaps he felt it could open next month but that would depend on the availability of staff.A restaurateur who did not want to come on record said there was a sense of desperation with regards the state of the business. Many of the owners were staring at the prospect of shutting down if this continued any longer. He said “Many have not paid salaries and have not paid the loans. They need to see money coming in fast. Otherwise their business will collapse, the industry will be affected with many small restaurants forced to shut down. They operate on tight margins. This move is good and I hope everyone follows the protocols otherwise it will come back to haunt us.” Workers he ended by saying would come if the industry resumed.
One can only hope things work out fine because this industry adds to the experience of what it means to be in Goa.