Muscat: Restaurant and hair salon owners in Oman have welcomed the decision allowing them to reopen their establishments, and hope they are able to soon get steady amounts of business to help reduce the economic impact they’ve felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, 25 August, the Supreme Committee to deal with COVID-19 announced the reopening of all restaurants, gyms, beauty salons, barbershops, camel racing facilities and conference rooms inside hotels, in the sixth package of the reopening of economic operations in the Sultanate.
Commenting on this decision, Yousuf Al Yafei, the owner of D’Arcy’s Kitchen, a continental restaurant in Muscat, said he would open his establishment next week, once he’d put into place all of the precautionary measures listed by Muscat Municipality.
“The list of measures is quite extensive and a good idea of what is required to maintain safe conditions right now,” he said. “The procedures here have been established according to international guidelines, and are the same as those that are being implemented in Britain, as well as other Arab countries.
“We have been working on putting these measures into effect for quite some time, and hope to reopen to the public by next Sunday or Monday,” added Al Yafei. “Of course, we will put all of these precautions into place, such as single serve cups and utensils, maintaining social distancing, sterilisation, all of it, as it is for the good of the country.
“The last few months have been quite bad for us, financially, because of the pandemic, so we hope we can resume business now,” he said. “Our operating costs continued to remain high, but before the airports were closed, we asked our staff if they wanted to go on leave. Some of them were happy to do so. That helped shift our costs a little bit.”
Adding to this, Deepak Daryani, who owns a number of Indian restaurants in Oman, said, “We were actually looking forward to things reopening because our business suffered when we were required to close. We know things will take time to recover, but the sooner things reopen, the sooner that can happen. So far, we’ve just been trying to survive and keep our heads above water until things improve.
“Things were very bad for the first couple of months. We only made 20 per cent of our previous volume of sales, but after that, they got a bit better,” he added. “Despite the decrease, our operating costs and salaries are still the same. By law, 60 per cent of our restaurant must be allocated to the customer, while 40 per cent of the area is for the kitchen. Right now, we are only using 40 per cent of our restaurant space, but have to pay rent for 100 per cent of it.”
Barbershops in Oman, which, have been allowed to reopen like restaurants, had also closed five months ago, leading to barbers and beauticians feeling the pinch during the pandemic.
Moin Alam, a barber who works in Al Khuwair, said, “It’s been really difficult for all of us at this time, because the barbershop is our main source of income. Without it, we really struggle, and are unable to send anything to our families back home. Some people even rang me up and said they’d pay me extra to come to their house and cut their hair, but doing that is against the law.”
People seemed to enjoy returning to restaurants to share a meal with their friends. At a Turkish restaurant in Bausher, Ahmed Al Ghaithy was having lunch with his colleague on Wednesday afternoon.
“It is such a relief to be out here again, it feels like things are returning to normal,” he said. “Of course, they are far from that, but eating out once again is a small pleasure for us. We must still be cautious and remember the rules that have been put in place for the benefit of all.”