Restaurants call for shorter curfew, ban on argileh to be lifted

‘Curfew hours are the most important factor to our losses’

A man fills the top of a hookah water-pipe with a tobacco and sugar mix in the capital Amman, on March 26, 2021. Restaurants are calling for the government to lift the ban on argileh and shorten curfew hours after being hit hard by pandemic restrictions. (Photo: AFP)
AMMAN — Friday lockdown has been lifted and the acceleration of the vaccination campaign provides hope that Jordan might soon return to a pre-pandemic normal. Despite these measures, the restaurant sector anticipates that the effects of the pandemic will have a lasting impact. اضافة اعلان

Owners of restaurants and cafes told Jordan News that the curfew and lockdown decisions have devastated the sector and left a huge impact that will not fade anytime soon.

“Before the pandemic we suffered from a lack of customers as people’s priorities have changed and visiting a new restaurant or a cafe is not a priority for them anymore,” one cafe owner said. “But after the pandemic, the loss was doubled. Before we might get some customers per day, but now we might spend days and no customer passes by our cafes.”

Several owners pointed to the ban on argileh in restaurants as a major factor in their decline. “Banning argileh was one of the reasons behind the lack of customers and work, therefore the rise of losses,” he went on. “The majority of the customers who come to our cafes used to order argileh and enjoy spending hours using it.”

“Night curfew hours are the most important factor to our losses,” said a cafe and restaurant owner. “People used to come after 6 or 7pm and spend hours smoking argileh, eating, and playing cards. But now as the curfew begins at six, people do not have time to come, and even if they do, they do not enjoy it as they used to before, especially since we do not offer argileh anymore.”

“I can guarantee that we are able to serve argileh with the highest safety measures and standards if the government allows us to,” he added.

A source from the Jordan Restaurants Association (JRA) told Jordan News that the government is working with owners to find solutions to compensate their losses. “I can say that the government is taking the right decisions,” he said. “Ultimately, both economic and health statutes are important. I cannot blame them for the tough decisions they take.”

“I guess after Ramadan, things will get better, especially with the end of the Friday lockdowns as we rely on the earnings we get from Fridays,” the JRA source said.

A source from the National Committee for Epidemics told Jordan News that restaurants and cafes will be allowed to serve argileh again when the health situation is appropriate.

“Whenever the time allows us to we will allow them to serve argileh,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said. “We actually monitor the health situation in Jordan day by day to figure out what decisions we can take to help all the sectors.”

“At the end we do not want any losses for them, but also the coronavirus pandemic required us to take some tough decisions to protect our society and people’s health. This is for their own safety,” he said.

President of the Jordanian Union of Restaurants and Confectionary Proprietors Omar Al-Awwad confirmed to Jordan News that nighttime curfew hours had negatively affected their sector, demanding the government reduce the nightly curfew hours.

“Many of the cafes and restaurants have closed their doors and (how) many are going to close them at any time if the government does not reconsider trimming curfew hours and allowing us to serve argileh for our customers,” he said. “Can you imagine how many employees have lost their jobs? Do you think they can find jobs easily? Of course not. They are joining the ranks of the unemployed.”

“Now it is the holy month of Ramadan and that means that no customer would come to visit a cafe or a restaurant,” he went on. “Before 6pm people are fasting and after that curfew begins. Can you imagine the losses that have been sustained?”

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