LAHORE: Dine-in services could not be shut down in restaurants in some areas and housing societies in the provincial capital, while some influential restaurant owners continued to openly violate Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in spite of the tall claims of district administration.
In the light of the SOPs, restaurants were banned from providing services/food to customers inside the restaurant during the pandemic, and only those restaurants that have open air space can provide services to the people up and until 10 pm.
A survey conducted by Profit found that on the Lahore district administration had constantly made claims about several restaurants being sealed for violations, but in actuality, the restaurants were still open.
Profit further learnt that a Lebanese food restaurant and a coffee shop of the Air Force Officers Housing Society Club (AFOHS) Club, which is located in the Falcon Complex, Gulberg III, was still doing business inside the restaurant premises.
When the restaurant manager was asked, he claimed that the ventilation system is very good as the restaurant has a large number of windows and doors. Pictures available with this scribe clearly show that this is not the case.
“In such a situation, there is no difference between indoor and open air. However, we regularly enforce the condition of wearing a mask, social distancing and hand sanitiser. The restaurant has a sitting capacity of 88 people and we close the restaurant between 10:00 to 10:30 pm,” he maintained.
A restaurant owner near the MM Alam Road said it was a blatant violation of SOPs.
“If this restaurant is allowed to do such things, then everyone should have it. The district administration keeps scaring us all the time that there should not be any kind of indoor gathering, then why it is not being implemented here?” he questioned.
The restaurant owner further said that restaurants located in most parts of the city including MM Alam Road, Gulberg, DHA were providing indoor services.
“These restaurants are not checked by the district administration and even if action is taken against them, they are resuming business the next day,” he said.
When the same matter was discussed with an official of the district administration, he said that the local government can only do so much, adding that the implementation of SOPs is also a social responsibility.
Even when our teams take action against restaurants, many restaurant owners insist that a case be filed against them, so they can ask for bail through a lawyer the next day,” the official said, adding that restaurant owners felt paying a menial lawyer’s fees was cheaper than paying the fines imposed on them.
According to the official, some restaurant owners pay fines by deducting the salaries of their employees. The district administration is trying to seal the restaurants and minimize fines as the administration itself feels that the restaurant sector has been severely damaged by the coronavirus, he added.
“There are many restaurants that are completely closed and may never reopen due to lockdown. In such a situation, it is their [restaurant management] responsibility to take care of the SOPs,” he suggested.
According to Assistant Commissioner Adnan Rasheed, dine-in permission has not been allowed to any restaurant and action has to be taken against the violator.
“The district administration cracks down on violators on a daily basis, and more than 100 restaurants and hotels are sealed daily. According to SOPs, no restaurant can provide indoor services,” Rasheed said.