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Calls for cancellation of limits on restaurants grow

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Sep 19,2020 - Last updated at Sep 19,2020

AMMAN — Tourism restaurant investors and members of the Amman Chamber of Commerce (ACC) on Friday called for the cancellation of the government’s decision to limit restaurants to only take-out and delivery for two weeks as of September 17.

The government imposed the decision with the aim of curbing the spread of the coronavirus, with the chamber described as “unjustified and unfair”.

"The decision includes around 12,000 facilities, and the damage affects not only owners and employees, but also suppliers," ACC President Khalil Hajj Tawfiq told The Jordan Times on Saturday over the phone. 

"The 1,600 tourist restaurants alone represent local, regional and international investments valued at hundreds of millions of dinars," continued Hajj Tawfiq.

He noted that many of the investors said they would not be able to continue investing, as the two-week closure would destroy what is left of their investments, especially because since the beginning of the comprehensive lockdowns and curfews in March they have been struggling to survive and keep their businesses afloat.

"The decision came as a surprise and hit the sector hard. The chamber is afraid that many businesses will go bankrupt, with many employees losing their jobs, damaging also suppliers, of meat and vegetables for example, and other related sectors such as transport and logistics companies, all of which are also impacted," he said.

"There are also large restaurants that are not tourist-grade with tens of thousands of employees that are facing possible bankruptcy and big damage, struggling to survive," Hajj Tawfiq added.

The ACC president concluded that the government took the decision without consulting the chambers of restaurant owners, noting that no effort or discussion was made to find solutions to avoid the closures. 

During the Friday meeting with the chamber's board of directors, the ACC members and investors said that the closures threaten their work and investments and could lead to the bankruptcy of many restaurants, leading their employees to lose their jobs as well.

Tourist restaurants are committed to paying off financial dues through their profit, they said, adding that they also have to pay operational costs, rent and dues to merchants and manufacturers. 

During the meeting, owners of restaurants revealed that “70 per cent of tourist restaurants do not have delivery services, and the ones that do cannot cover half their spending through the service”.

The tourist restaurants' sector employs around 22,000 workers, 70 per cent of whom are Jordanians that received “high-end professional training” to work in the sector, which prompted the ACC’s board to call for the immediate cancellation of the decision, especially for tourism restaurants that are committed to public health and safety instructions.

Due to the pandemic, the suspension of tourism activities has caused tourism restaurants to “lose millions of dinars,” with their sales dropping below 50 per cent compounded by the drop in inbound tourism and expatriates not visiting during the summer, and no conferences being held, the ACC said.

On social media, many people have expressed solidarity with restaurants, noting that they witnessed commitment to public health and safety measures, while others said restaurants should not be closed but should have more control over shisha and smoking.

Abdulrahman Qarout wrote on Facebook: “This is a good opportunity for restaurants to conduct maintenance and cleaning work, organising their conditions and utilise their employees for delivery until they are reopened. They could also create new ideas to provide exceptional services that allow them to continue working instead of having to shutdown.”

“From what I have seen where I live, restaurants are very committed and do not allow in people without masks, so only restaurants that are not committed to safety measures must be closed, otherwise it is unfair,” Wala Salahat wrote.

Dunya Ismail commented: “Many of the large restaurants have reduced the number of tables from 60 to 20 for example, just to ensure physical distancing is implemented properly, and they also take the temperature of anyone who enters the facility. Those in particular should not be closed and their employees losing their salaries, when they have done nothing but follow instructions, is wrong.”

“They should have let restaurants allow people in, but charge a small fee for disinfecting tables after their use,” Tariq Samara wrote.

While some users believed that the closure would be ineffective as the virus has already spread with over 100 to 200 cases registered daily as of late, they still commented that the tourism-grade restaurants need to reconsider their exaggerated prices.

“Tourism restaurants cannot lose fast because they charge a lot, a 15 piasters water bottle can cost up to JD1.5 at some of them,” Ayat Alqaisy wrote.

Thaer Al Sadee wrote: “The cheapest tourism restaurant sells one kilogramme of barbecue for JD25 and overcharge for drinks and water, other than the high service fees and taxation, they cannot lose a lot in two weeks.” 

Khaled Nadim Abu Hwej wrote: “The restaurants’ sector is vital and has been shouldering burdens since the beginning of the crisis, employing so many people and paying high operational costs. I find it strange that some people are happy that restaurants suffer when they should be buying more from them, supporting them and mitigating their losses.”

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