Pubs and bistros struggling even as rules are relaxed

PETALING JAYA: Despite the Klang Valley’s move to Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and restrictions eased even before that, pubs, bistros and various entertainment outlets are still finding it difficult to cope with the current business environment.

“Larger establishments such as clubs have been unable to pivot their operations whereas smaller establishments have transitioned to operate using a restaurant licence.

“This saw such establishments shifting towards providing their patrons with meals as compared to earlier when drinks were the priority. Many livelihoods are at stake with these businesses still struggling to survive,” said Restaurant and Bistro Owners Association vice-president Jeremy Lim.

Lim said the association had previously attempted to engage with relevant ministries during the multiple series of movement control order and intended to once again reach out when the new standard operating procedure (SOP) for the current phase of the NRP is released.

“We understand that it is impractical to reopen right away, especially considering the multitude of factors.

“So we are hoping for details on when we can reopen in order to plan ahead and not constantly be stuck in limbo,” he said.

Lim urged the government to engage in more discussions with them to come up with a practical and regulated SOP.

“Operators should comply strictly with the fixed SOP that is important towards maintaining public safety and health during the pandemic.

“If there are requirements to limit the number of people within the premises, operators must abide by the guidelines,” he said.

Lim also said there have been incidents when several outlets operating on a restaurant licence were caught offering services such as karaoke to their patrons.

“This gives a bad image to the industry and further erodes the confidence of the government in allowing us to reopen,” he said.

Lim said being able to successfully come out of the pandemic was a collective effort involving operators and the people.

A pub owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said the current situation was very challenging despite being able to operate under a restaurant licence.

“Not many people would want to order takeaways from a pub.

“Although customers are now allowed to dine in, our predicament poses a challenge to our business,” he said.

He said the landlord of the premises was understanding enough to halve the rental.

“Despite the hard times, I still paid my workers their salary. I thought about closing down during the first MCO but I couldn’t let my workers go without an income,” he said.

Koh Ken Yong, 38, who owns a bistro in Petaling Jaya, said he just reopened his outlet for the fully vaccinated to dine in.

“There was a slight increase in business since reopening last week. We hope for things to improve,” said Koh.

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