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Restaurant sector sees red from 2-week restrictions

By Maram Kayed - Sep 23,2020 - Last updated at Sep 23,2020

AMMAN — The losses of restaurants and cafes as a result of their forced closure for two weeks amount to approximately JD20 million, President of the Jordan Association for Restaurants and Sweets Shops Owners Omar Awwad said.

Awwad said that restricting their work to pick-up and delivery compounds the previous losses endured by the sector in the previous national lockdown.

The restrictions have made owners lose two weeks worth of rent, worker salaries and foodstuff, the association’s president told The Jordan Times over the phone.

“There are some high-end restaurants and cafes whose rent can reach JD40,00. All of this is wasted with half a month of work down the drain,” said Awwad.

He also noted that “there has not been one coronavirus infection transferred in a restaurant or by a restaurant worker”.

“Workers have all been tested, tables are all set according to physical distancing measures, and masks are a requirement for entering any restaurant or cafe. In all honesty, however, even if there were no physical distancing measures, the financial situations of citizens and their fear of the virus have already decreased activity in the sector so most places are already empty,” added Awwad.

Some restaurants and cafes, especially those that are not of the fast-food type, said they depend entirely on serving their meals in their spaces.

“Some of these restaurants do deliver, but even those have lost the profits from their in-house dining areas. More importantly, however, how is a restaurant that does not have a contract with a delivery service, no delivery packages or any other of the delivery needs supposed to transform its mode of serving within the three-day notice that the government gave us?” said Basil Shafaqoj, a Lebanese restaurant owner.

Shafaqoj added: “Some restaurants are not known for their food, but for their quiet dining areas and atmosphere, so while restaurants serve popular options such as shawarma, falafel and burgers might still have a line waiting outside them, those who depend on their location and service have been badly hurt.”

People working in cafes noted that they earn most of their profits from serving shisha, which cannot be done with the sitting area closed.

Ahmad Fadel, a shisha worker in a cafe located near the Third Circle, told The Jordan Times over the phone that most customers are people who come after work to smoke and unwind, which then leads to more sales as they order food and drinks while sitting in the cafe.

“As a place that is not known for its food or specialised in its menu, no one is going to call us specifically for a simple sandwich. Our sales depended on our customers who come for the atmosphere and the shisha,” said Fadel.

Awwad called on the Social Security Corporation to allow all restaurants to make adjustments to benefit from fines exemption and to reschedule them under a 1 per cent interest.

The association’s president also asked that all legal fees be written off as the stakeholders in the sector are “not able to meet them in the current situation”.

“Given the economic downturn and the decline that this sector is witnessing with all its establishments, restaurants, sweets shops and cafes, we ask all state institutions to comply with the Defence Law in loosening restrictions,” said Awwad.

He highlighted that the Social Security Corporation in particular “has been imposing all forms of legal and administrative restrictions on Distressed Transactions, which prevents any settlement of transactions that have already been settled legally through the Kingdom’s courts. This is unfair because the reason these transactions were labelled as distressed is because owners are having their properties seized or going broke.”

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