Nepal | September 27, 2020

Jobs of nearly 50,000 workers associated with party venues, catering services at risk

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The monthly salary of Rs 15,000 was barely enough for Keshav Kunwar, a resident of Bhaktapur, to make ends meet. But when the government announced a nationwide lockown in March to control the spread of coronavirus, the party palace he was working for also shuttered, thereby cutting off his only source of income for his family of three — including a wife and son.

“The party palace owner paid us till May, but hasn’t since,” informed Kunwar, who has now nearly exhausted whatever little savings he had managed to accumulate while living on a shoestring budget.

“Party management and catering service are the only skills I possess and with mass gatherings banned still, life is getting more and more difficult,” he said.

Akin to employees of every other sector, the future of almost 50,000 workers like Kunwar engaged in party venues and catering services is uncertain, as such businesses have been completely shut since months.

While the lockdown modality has been somewhat eased, the restriction on operation of such businesses still prevails and mass gathering is still restricted amid increasing COV- ID-19 cases. Hence, operators of party venues are extremely worried about sustaining their business while workers who used to work in party venues are struggling for their livelihood.

“Though the government earlier lifted the lockdown and allowed businesses to resume, party venues and catering services are still unable to resume operations. Thus, party venues are fighting to sustain while some of them have already collapsed,” said Abishek Dhungel, an operator of a party venue in Kathmandu.

As both the government and public are against mass gatherings and people are not organising any ceremonies citing the risk of spread of the virus, the party venues and catering businesses are sure to go bankrupt in the next few months unless the government announces some sustainability packages for such businesses, as per Dhungel.

As per party venue operators, they were unable to record any business this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With nil revenue, we are not in a position to pay house rent or give regular salary to our workers,” added Dhungel.

Had there been no lockdown and the pandemic, all banquets would have been making brisk business around this time of the year due to fiscal-end programmes of banks and financial institutions and big corporate houses. Similarly, this is also the time when party venues would normally host various events related to the Teej festival.

With no business, operators of party venues said all workers have been asked to stay on leave for an indefinite period.

“Our biggest concern is related to payment of house rent and salary to staffers,” said an official of Baneshwor Banquet, seeking anonymity.

Lila Bahadur GC, president of Federation of Nepal National Party Palace and Catering Business, said that uncertainty caused by the pandemic has put the future of party palace and catering business in doubt. “Our businesses, which have been shut since more than six months, are likely to be affected severely for many more months to come. In such a context, the government should come up with proper plans and support measures to ensure sustainability of this sector,” opined GC.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on August 14, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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