Hospitality Halt: Home Delivery Guidelines Flouted In Bhubaneswar; Cafe Owners Seek Relook

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Bhubaneswar: Pushed to the wall because of the corona pandemic, certain restaurants and cafes in the city have urged the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) to relook at its guidelines on online deliveries and food takeaway.

BMC, in its order dated April 28, said any single building having more than five shops/ commercial establishments shall be treated as a market complex. Except essential commodities and medicine shops, other units in a ‘market complex’ cannot operate. The guidelines, however, are allegedly not being implemented uniformly.

“We started the online delivery in mid-April after taking permission from the police. However, three days back BMC officials stopped operations at our Master Canteen facility on the ground that it is located in a market complex. We have written to the BMC Commissioner regarding this. I think there is some confusion regarding the guidelines,” said owner of Bocca Cafe Sameer Hans. “But leading multinational food chain KFC is operating at the Pal Heights complex at Jayadev Vihar. Why is the rule not applied there as well?” he wondered.

A reality check at Patia by Odisha Bytes also found other foodchains dealing with momos and pizzas and part of BMC’s definition of ‘market complex’ keeping their units operational. “We are  taking online bookings and doing home deliveries,” said a staff at WOW! Momo. We got a similar response from an employee at Domino’s Pizza, although a BMC ‘market complex closed’ order announcing “the building has more than 5 shops, hence it shall remain closed until further notice” was seen pasted.

Stating that their businesses have suffered massively because of the lockdown and it would become very difficult to sustain for long, Hans said, “We appreciate the government efforts and the BMC rules to combat the COVID-19. pandemic It is an unprecedented situation and we are one with the administration. At the same time, some economic activity has to be permitted. Otherwise, businesses will collapse, leading to huge job losses.”

Opposite Bocca Cafe is a restaurant run by Basanta Sahu. “We are doing home deliveries. But there is hardly any business. Running operations like the way it is now makes no sense. If this situation continues, we will be forced to rethink,” he said.

Restaurants are facing serious difficulties in keeping up the cash flow requirements without any operation. This could eventually lead to lay-offs and impact sustainability of the business, said another cafe owner, preferring anonymity.

However, the BMC authorities had a different take. “If a restaurant or hotel is in a market complex, they won’t be allowed to operate. KFC is a standalone shop, and in Pal Heights, only shops dealing with essential items, i.e., groceries or medicines have been allowed to operate. We can check only if we have the details,” said BMC Commissioner Prem Chandra Chaudhary.

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