Stakeholders of restaurants and bars have claimed that they have been neglected by the government, in this pandemic situation and have requested for urgent relief
This statement was made by the Colombo City Restaurateurs Collective (CCRC), supported by 56 stakeholders in the industry. Accordingly they claimed that their businesses had been severely affected and feared that the major losses caused would result in unemployment of workers and cause major damage to the tourism industry.
Accordingly relief is being sought in the following areas:
- Conduct a vaccination drive for frontline food and beverage service workers
- Provide an exemption from Excise Licence fees for the duration in which restaurants are not permitted to serve alcohol to customers.
- Provide working capital loans from State banks at the same rate of 4% that was offered to the hotel industry last year with movable property considered as collateral.
- Extension of the moratorium on existing debt until end 2022.
- Wave off penalties on all outstanding statutory payments.
- Abolish TDL and Municipality Tax for the current financial year.
- Provide relief from utility bill payments for the months of April, May and June. Allow cumulative rates to be paid off in equal instalments along with the rates of the July-December period.
- Allow the sale of alcoholic beverages to all dine-in customers in restaurants as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted on 7 June.
The CCRC urged the government to consider these proposals as restaurant and bar entities were an important part of the tourism industry and should be treated with equity.They added that while most businesses were registered and were recognized before the law, this sector provides direct and indirect employment to many thousands of workers, struggling to earn a living and support their families.
Furthermore the CCRC pointed out that, while restaurants and bars generate a significant income for local and central government level agencies and authorities, they have been excluded from the policy formation process, and have not received the equitable treatment, meted out to other stakeholders in the industry. This industry has traditionally been supported by entrepreneurs and not large multinational corporations, and the CCRC explains that their lack of power and influence may be the reason for second class treatment.They stressed that special consideration should be made when formulating such policies in the future.
For example, when the government declared that low-interest working capital loans would be made available, in order to provide financial assistance with regards to tourism-related operations, many hotels, guest houses and hostels benefited from this policy change. However the similar relief has not been provided by the government. Bars and restaurants were excluded, as many stakeholders did not own the properties on which their businesses were run, could not provide Class A collateral demanded by the banks and hence could not claim this benefit.