New Delhi: Hotel and restaurant associations said on Monday they have been given ‘in principle’ approval by Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to reopen restaurants and bars in the state from the first week of October.

“In principle, the chief minister has given approval to open from the first week of October. And he has also told the concerned officials to discuss the standard operating measures with us and other safeguard measures. I’m expecting restaurants could reopen from October 4 -8,” said Anurag Katriar, president, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI).

“Another significant development was on the excise front. I had asked for relief asking for a rollback of a proposed hike in excise fee and to charge this year’s fee on a pro rata basis for the period that we are operational. I had also asked that we should be given an option to pay in installments. He did not say yes specifically, but he said if this is the support required, I’m sure we can look at them. We are expecting these relief measures to come through as well,” he added.

Sherry Bhatia, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) said besides the assurance to reopen restaurants from the first week of October, the chief minister has also agreed to ‘favourably’ consider HRAWI’s petition for the waiver of excise license fees for a period of 6 months, the duration for which establishments were required to be kept shut. “Also, the deadline for deferment of payments towards the first instalment of the excise licence fee has been extended to September 30 which will provide relief to the restaurateurs,” he added.

Two days after its ‘Mission Begin’ order, the Maharashtra government had clarified to industry bodies on September 2 that restaurants weren’t allowed to reopen. Restaurants inside hotels were allowed to operate for only in house guests.

Shivanand Shetty, president, Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) said most of the restaurants closed down and will take about 7-10 days to mobilise staff and operations.

“We have about 8000 members in Mumbai. At present only about 30% are doing the take away business. We had asked for a license fee waiver for the entire year because our industry is in a state of absolute financial crisis,” he said.

“Now after opening also, we will be having about 50% capacity as per discussions and the offices are working with 30% capacity. So we won’t get that much business. If restaurant owners are not able to settle the dues with their landlords, there will be more cases of closures. Even after opening up business won’t be great, but for now we are happy with being allowed to operate,” he added.

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