'Close and compensate all restaurants amid Covid-19' - RTHK
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'Close and compensate all restaurants amid Covid-19'

2020-03-31 HKT 16:40
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  • 'Close and compensate all restaurants amid Covid-19'
The Small and Medium Restaurant Federation has urged the government to close all eateries and help them pay their rents and staff salary costs, as they struggle to implement social distancing measures due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bars and restaurants say they have been feeling the pinch even more since Chief Executive Carrie Lam imposed a number of new rules to curb the spread of the virus, including a limit of four customers per table, and that tables be placed at least 1.5 metres apart.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, a few bar and restaurant owners complained that it is hard for smaller establishments to implement the measures, and urged officials to visit some places to see for themselves.

The federation's convenor, Gordon Lam, also accused the CE of being "out of touch" after she was filmed inspecting two restaurants, one of them a banquet hall, to see how they were implementing the new social distancing measures.

"I would like to invite Carrie Lam to come to see our cha chaan teng or hotpot [restaurants] to see what our difficulties are, not only to go to a more than 3,000 square foot restaurant," he said.

"What will they see? They will see how difficult it is for us to run the restaurants, or the bar tables... how to keep a 1.5 metre distance. Is it that I can just serve three customers in a ramen restaurant? It just doesn’t make sense."

Gordon Lam, who is also a member of the Civic Party, said that he hoped the government would meet representatives from small and medium-sized restaurants to understand the difficulties the industry is facing, provide clarity on some of the measures, and also promise not to prosecute restaurants that have violated the regulations because of unclear guidelines.

He said they would not rule out further action if the government fails to respond to their demands.

Also speaking at the press conference were some bar and restaurant owners who said it has been difficult for struggling operators to plan how to salvage their businesses, with no end in sight to the outbreak and no details on extra assistance promised by the government.

One bar owner said he was willing to follow the new measures, but wasn't clear about how to measure the distance between tables, saying "I hope there are some guidelines on this so that we can do things better."

Amid a drop in customers dining out, a lot of people have been turning more to takeaways, and for those who do choose to dine in, restaurants need to offer hand sanitiser and carry out temperature checks. But one izakaya owner said she has had trouble buying certain equipment and materials, saying that one thermometer set her back about HK$1,000.

She also said materials and packaging for takeaway meals are hard to come by, adding "if we decided to do takeaways, it's not something we'd be able to do straight away."