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Eviction drive rattles hotels, restaurants in Dhaka's posh areas

By bdnews24.com
19th-Aug-2016       
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The ongoing eviction drive against restaurants and hotels located in residential areas of Dhaka has impacted adversely on the business in many upmarket hotels and restaurants.
Many of them face closure or will have to cut down heavily on jobs to stay afloat.
Unease has gripped the employees of these hotels and restaurants located in Gulshan, Dhanmondi and Uttara.
Many employees have already received marching orders, but many more are uncertain.
Owners anticipate huge losses, not the least because of drop in clientele after the Holey Artisan Bakery massacre on Jul 1. On Jul 1 night, 22 people-20 hostages and two police officers-were killed at the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery and O' Kitchen at Gulshan-2, in the deadliest terror attack faced by Bangladesh.
The mobile court of RAJUK has already shut down 12 restaurants and one hotel in Gulshan, 17 restaurants and five hotels in Uttara and nine restaurants in Dhanmondi.
As a result, the owners estimate that around 100,000 people might lose their jobs.
Housing and Public Works Minister Mosharraf Hossain said that the government was determined to implement its decision. "These commercial entities cannot operate in residential areas. We will not allow them to stay there anymore," he said. According to Hotel-Guesthouse and Restaurant Owners Association of Bangladesh (HGROAB), 60 hotels and guest houses and 500 restaurants operate in the areas of Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Dhanmondi and Uttara areas of the capital. On Jul 27, RAJUK conducted a drive in Gulshan's Holliday Villagram Hotel.
They cut off the gas and electricity connections there and ordered foreign guests to evacuate the hotel.
Since that day, 44 employees of the hotel are fearing loss of job.
"Where would I find a new job now after passing half of my life here?" asked Najim Sarder, manager of food and beverage section of the hotel. Najim suggests that government should provide them with some time to find alternative jobs.
"We support the decision of government but we will be in trouble if they evict us without any notice," he said.
The director of this hotel situated on road No. 8 said they had been witnessing a sharp fall in the number of customers since the Holey Artisan attack. "We did not receive any reservation till Jul 12. After that very few guests have come. And the eviction drive has once again deterred them," he said.
Following the death of 17 foreigners on the Jul 1 incident, the foreign embassies have cautioned their citizens over movement. Therefore, the number of visits paid by foreigners to the restaurants has drastically fallen. Locals are also avoiding the area since then. The employees of foreign embassies living in Gulshan area were the mainstay customers of these restaurants.
Employees of Istanbul restaurant on road No. 113 are also in fear of losing jobs.
Manager of the restaurant Md Yunus Ali told bdnews24.com: "The job market is down these days. Prior the Gulshan attack the owners used to look for efficient managers and waiters. But today, these people are going from door to door looking for jobs, without success. The eviction will make the situation worse."
RAJUK authorities shut down the restaurant on Jul 28. After 10 days, it resumed but number of customers plummeted. That may prompt the owners to lay them off anytime, feared Yunus.
Owner of Meraki restaurant Shah Alam opined that the already dull business will be hit hard by the eviction drive of RAJUK. He also questioned the rationality of the drive.
"These establishments were not built in a day. They were built in front of the eyes of RAJUK. Why didn't they stop at that time?" The tourism sector will also fall apart because of the eviction drive, tour operators say.
Foreigners might not come to the country if the medium cost hotels are closed down.
Managing Director of AB Tours Khurshid Ali Mollah said: "Many tourists come to Dhaka, stay for a day or two and then go out of the capital. This group of customers want to stay in cheap hotels. If these medium cost hotels are closed then they would not like to come."
HGROAB suggested a 'concrete policy' for these hotels rather than closing them down.
Khaledur Rahman Sunny, member of the executive body of the owners association said, "Give us a policy, we will run the hotels and restaurants according to that."
"For example, those who do not have parking can be ordered to build parking spaces or improve security."
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, in the fiscal year 2014-2015, the contribution of hotels and restaurants to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) stood at 1.03 percent.
"Please do not destroy this sector. Where would we go then?" asks Sunny.

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