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The Maharashtra government has indicated that hotels and restaurants would be allowed to reopen from the first week of October, despite the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country’s worst-affected state.

However, hoteliers and restaurateurs are likely to face an uphill task in running their businesses because of a raft of factors.

Hotels and restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% of their capacity, as the state government has insisted on compliance with social distancing, an acute shortage of labourers, severe financial crisis coupled with panic about the Covid-19 pandemic among customers.

Hoteliers and restaurateurs said though they would not make any profit, they were relieved about the gradual unlocking of restrictions in a bid to revive economic activities battered by the viral outbreak.

Consider the case of Udupi Srikrishna Boarding, a reputed south Indian eatery in Matunga that can accommodate up to 79 customers.

“We will be able to cater to a maximum of 40 customers at one go. Our business will be reduced to half,” said Satish Nayak, the owner of the outlet.

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Nayak said it would be impossible for hotels and restaurants to break even in such a restrictive environment. “There were no earnings in the past six months. This move will at least provide us to pay our overheads to some extent,” he added.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, director, Pritam Hotels, cited an acute crisis of labourers because many migrants to the city had returned to their respective native places during the Covid-19-induced 68-day nationwide lockdown restrictions.

“It will be a Herculean task to bring back migrant labourers from their native places because of a shortage of outstation trains,” said Kohli.

“Besides, local employees live in far-off places and they are not being allowed to travel by suburban trains,” he added.

Hoteliers plan to petition the state government to allow their employees to travel by suburban trains and treat them as part of essential services.

Regular patrons to hotels and restaurants are wary of eating out because of an uptick in the number of Covid-19 cases in both Maharashtra and Mumbai.

“We are still apprehensive about the viral outbreak. We will wait for some more months before eating out,” said Vaishali Mandot, a Sewree resident, who used to dine out at least once a week during pre-Covid-19 days.

Maharashtra has around four lakh hotels that have been closed for the past six weeks because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though the state government had allowed takeaways and home deliveries, Mumbaikars were lukewarm to avail of the services. There was a growing chorus for reopening of hotels and restaurants as part of the state government’s Mission Begin Again campaign, which was accepted on Monday.

Savio D’sa, a consultant to the food and beverage (F&B) sector, said the state government’s move was prompted due to economic issues. “Hotels and restaurants provide a huge amount of taxes to the state exchequer. It is imperative that the state government allows them to reopen,” said D’sa.

He said any further delay would have broken the back of the F&B sector, which is reeling under an acute financial crisis because of the contagion-induced lockdown restrictions.

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