Most stalls are asked to clear up by 9 p.m., which is usually the peak business hours
Roadside food stalls catering to customers at dinner time have taken a hit due to the night curfew imposed in the State in view of the second wave of COVID-19.
The vendors claim that they had only begun making some profits over the last few months and that the new norms will only lead to further losses.
A row of night eateries can be found near the back entrance of the Central Bus Stand, Gandhi Market, Omni Bus Stand, Big Bazaar Street, Singarathope, near the Tiruchi Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital and other parts of the city. They open up in the evening and serve varieties of dishes, including dosa, idly, parotta, chaats and snacks and cater to customers seeking to eat dinner before heading home or to work. These stalls have lost a large share of business due to the night curfew. Since the curfew begins at 10 p.m., they are asked to clear their stalls by 9 p.m., which is usually the peak business hours for them, they added.
S. Nathar Ali, who runs ARR Biryani near the Central Bus Stand, said that their customers were mainly travellers who alighted at the bus stand. But, now inter-district buses to Chennai stop by 2 p.m. and only buses to nearby places like Perambalur, Manapparai and Musiri ply till 8 p.m, he said. Mr. Ali has been forced to reduce the number of workers working at his stall and kitchen to prepare the dishes. “Along with cleaners and dishwashers, we had a total of 20 people. However, in the last month, we have downsized to a team of seven. I have asked them to come on a rotational basis, on alternate days, because I am unable to pay them daily wages,” he rued.
R. Sharath, who works night-shifts and was a regular customer at Mr. Ali’s stall said that he was forced to buy food even before his shift would start or otherwise the stall would be closed and he would have to go hungry. “It is either cold food, or no food at all. Since restaurants close too, we are forced to buy early,” he said.
Another vendor, near the Tiruchi MGMGH said that he had reduced the quantity of food he prepared. “On Tuesday night, I had to throw out more than half the rice I had cooked. Now, I have learned my lesson and make only half the quantity,” he said. His business was hit by at least 80%, he said. “The police force us to shut shop by 8 p.m., which is when people usually come to buy my food,” he added.