Many parts of Bengaluru, which would have otherwise been packed, were noticeably empty on Wednesday, a day after the government introduced restrictions and shut down theatres, hotels, malls, and gyms for two weeks.
People whose livelihoods are dependent on these sectors fear that the “semi-lockdown” will be extended beyond the two weeks. Any such extension will “ruin our business irrevocably”, said proprietors who are still to recover from last year’s lockdown.
Chandrashekhar Hebbar, president, Karnataka Regional Hotels’ and Restaurants’ Association, argued that opening only for takeaways was not viable. Most hotels will shut shop, he predicted. “Already hit from the restrictions last year, nearly 3,000 hotels wound up business. This year too, we may see a repeat of the situation,” he said.
The association demanded that the government provide relief packages such as exemption from taxes, rebates in utility bills and monetary support for hotel employees. “If the restrictions are extended, which we fear will be the case, there will be large-scale job losses in the sector,” he said.
He also argued that hotels must be allowed to function at 50% occupancy. “If a person can travel in a bus across the State for several hours with others, why can’t he have some food or drink coffee at our hotels?”
Proprietors of film theatres and gyms owners held a similar view. K.V. Chandrashekhar, president, Karnataka Film Exhibitors Association, said many theatres may be forced to permanently close. “The impact of the lockdown last year was so severe that at least a hundred theatres never reopened. The government is closing down theatres, and film teams are going to OTT platforms. While the government is ready to impose restrictions, is it unwilling to give us exemptions even in property tax? It lacks empathy,” he said.
Karnataka Gym and Fitness Centres’ Owners’ Association has a similar story to tell – of several gyms closing down, and has also demanded a relief package.
Meanwhile, Uday Garudachar, BJP MLA from Chickpet and owner of a chain of malls in the city and Mysuru, said malls remained closed for nearly seven months last year. “None of the businesses are in a position to pay salaries to their employees, which may lead to job loss, it is feared. Meanwhile, they are also unlikely to pay rent to mall owners,” he said, hoping the restrictions won’t be extended beyond two weeks, for which they are imposed presently.