Restaurants and small businesses in P/ling feel pressure of Covid-19 pandemic

Many shopkeepers say they are facing problems in paying rent for their shop and house

While small businesses and restaurants in Phuentsholing town have opened following the second nationwide lockdown, they are doubtful whether they can make up for the losses incurred during the closure of their businesses with shops and restaurants seeing fewer customers each day.

A shop owner in Phuentsholing said he incurred major loss this year after the town was declared as a red zone.

“I hardly get Nu 3,000 a day while in normal days I could earn like around Nu 9,000 in a day,” he added.

With businesses having plummeted, most shopkeepers are facing problems in paying rent for their shop and house.

A restaurant owner, Binod said, “We are already at a loss and even the number of customers has massively decreased due to Phuentsholing being in the red zone. How are we supposed to pay rent of our house and the shop?”

“I pay Nu 10,000 as house rent and Nu 8,000 for my restaurant. During the lockdown the owner waived 30% of the rent for the house, but now it has come back to normal payment and it is an issue,” he added.

And while the business timing has been extended to 8:30 pm in Phuentsholing since the beginning of this month, Bikash Pradhan of the CNC Bar and Restaurant said business has not improved.

“It is as if the same. We are made to close the shop by 8:30 pm sharp without even an extension of five minutes,” he said.

The mandatory quarantine when travelling from Phuentsholing to Thimphu has been another reason for these small businesses and restaurants incurring losses.

“When people stay in isolation, there are hardly any customers. The numbers have gone done and I am worried about the payment of rent with fewer income from the business which is the only source of income for me and my family,” said Bikash Pradhan.

“Before the pandemic, I used to earn around Nu 10,000 to Nu 12,000 in a day,” he said, adding that his business is hardly earning around Nu 3,500 in a day presently.

“Sometimes the money that is earned hardly covers the house rent and due to the safety protocols to avoid crowding the shop is seeing fewer number of customers.”

However, another restaurant owner said they have been serious about the Covid-19 protocols and ensure that their customers put on a facemask.

“There are some challenges with the customers too, but we don’t entertain such customers in the shop to be on the safer side for the other customers and ourselves,” he said. “The rent of my restaurant was waived of by 30% during the lockdown but after the lockdown opened it was no longer initiated and we are struggling to survive.”

Meanwhile, another restaurant owner said the prices of the vegetables have increased and that buying vegetables is also a challenge when running a restaurant.

“The rent of the restaurant which is Nu 6,000, is hardly recovered by my business,” the owner said.

Sonam Tashi from Phuentsholing