Restaurateurs slam fresh lockdown restrictions

Restaurateurs slam fresh lockdown restrictions

Affected operators urge government to provide remedies, vaccinations

A pedestrian walks past an empty cafe in Siam Square. The government banned dining at restaurants across the capital to curb the spread of Covid-19.
A pedestrian walks past an empty cafe in Siam Square. The government banned dining at restaurants across the capital to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Restaurant operators and food vendors are irritated with the new round of tight lockdown measures and travel curbs, saying it will further impact their businesses.

Atchara Burarak, the owner of Iberry Group, the operator of the Iberry restaurant chain, said she agrees with the idea of containing infections, but questioned the efficacy of the fresh measures.

"With the new restrictions, we are considering temporarily closing 5-6 restaurants located on the high floors of malls as it is hard to entirely shift to delivery services," she said.

"We may permanently close more restaurants at locations in which landlords do not want to help tenants cope with the virus crisis. We already decided to permanently close two restaurants at All Seasons Place."

The company operates 60 restaurants. Of the total, 80% are located at shopping complexes.

"In addition to the new restrictions, the government needs to aggressively separate people who are not infected from high-risk or infected groups," Ms Atchara said.

Nath Vongpanich, president of Central Restaurants Group, the operator of Mister Donut, Auntie Anne's, KFC, Pepper Lunch and others, said the fresh mall closures will hurt the restaurant business because their revenue from takeaways will disappear.

"Restaurants are likely to feel the same pain as during the first lockdown in April last year," Mr Nath said.

He said Mister Donut and Auntie Anne's would see much lower revenue at some locations because both brands record the majority of sales from takeaways.

Thanyanan Baisamut, vice-chairman and vice-president of Thipsamai Padthai Pratoopee Restaurant, said the company will feel the pinch of new restrictions, but it understands the importance of curbing new infections.

In a related development, Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, on Friday called on the government to speed up inoculations for employees in the retail business.

He said although the retail sector employs many workers, only 20% of employees have been vaccinated.

"The government needs to offer the sector immediate remedies to prevent an exodus back to hometowns if it locks down trade for 14 days," Mr Sanan said.

"During the fresh lockdown measures, vaccinations should be revved up as fast as possible for employees in this sector to stop fresh outbreaks once businesses reopen."

Mr Sanan led a joint meeting of 40 chief executives on Friday and said the private sector is deeply concerned about the uncontrollable nature of the outbreak.

With the procurement and distribution of vaccines far from the targeted rate, the 40 chief executives suggested tighter restrictions only for high-risk areas in order to limit people's movement.

In parallel, they said the government must come up with remedies for affected businesses or there will be a flood of people returning to their hometowns, resulting in the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country, which will lead to a public health and economic failure.

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