Muscat: Wedding hall owners in Oman are happy to reopen their venues to ceremonies once again, but are hopeful they will soon be allowed to operate at full capacity.
While wedding halls and other large-scale facilities were allowed to reopen by the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19, after being required to close since the start of the pandemic, they can only operate at 30 per cent capacity, or accommodate up to 300 people, whichever is lesser. Despite now being able to bring in some business, wedding hall owners say they require larger numbers of guests to be allowed into their venues, so that they can pay off the losses incurred because of the economic impact of the pandemic.
“The decision to allow wedding halls to reopen with limited attendance is definitely better than shutting them down altogether,” said Zaher Mansour Al Balushi, who owns two wedding halls in Jalan Bani Bu Ali.
"However, after they had been closed initially, I incurred large losses, because I had invested in air conditioners and lighting.
“I also had to pay back the people who had booked my venues, but were unable to go through with them, because of the decision to close businesses like mine,” added Al Balushi, who used to turn a profit of between OMR1,000 and 1,200 from the 10 or so bookings he received every month.
Saleh bin Saeed Al Ismaili was of a similar opinion. Earning profits ranging from OMR4,000 to OMR8,000 a month pre-pandemic, the coronavirus has seen his fortunes take a turn for the worse, as he is now burdened with losses of OMR40,000 ever since he was required to close his wedding hall in Saham in North Al Batinah.
“This is considered to be a very small number of people, when I have a hall that can accommodate 800,” he said, of the 300-person limit he needs to comply with. “I have had to take on very large losses since the start of the pandemic, because of the workers’ salaries, rent, payments I need to make to people who have made bookings, and many other expenses. The hall also needs maintenance because it has not been used in a long time.”
Another wedding hall owner in Al Dhahirah said he used to have high numbers of bookings before the pandemic struck. His business was steadily growing, and his profits climbed with each passing month. COVID-19, however, has seen his profits dry up, and like many other businesses in the country, incur losses that need to be reversed at the earliest.
“When we were told to close because of the pandemic, I was shocked,” said the owner, who did not wish to be named. “Apart from the maintenance and upkeep of my hall, how would I pay the monthly instalments towards the construction and furnishing of the building?”
“Because the building has not been used for a long time, it requires maintenance,” he said. “We also have to pay back previous deposit amounts, as well as the high amounts of the monthly payments that need to go towards the bank.”
“We were very happy when we were told we would be allowed to reopen, and that the bank is going to give us a grace period of six months to repay our loans, but even then we are already in a tough situation which will take us some time to get out of. I hope the number of people allowed to attend such functions is therefore allowed to increase.”