Restaurants ‘face $8 billion hit’ if rules stay

A restaurant industry leader warned on Wednesday that the sector faces missing out in $8 billion of business if the government extends restrictions, including a ban on evening dine-in services, through the crucial Lunar New Year period.

Simon Wong, who heads the Federation of Restaurants, told RTHK’s Newswrap programme that trade could fall by 40 percent in the first two months of the year after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the curbs in an effort to stop the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

“I of course hope that the government would roll out some kind of relief programme to save the industry, as well as to help the workers from being laid off,” he told RTHK’s Ben Tse.

“This is very important because many workers during this time need money for the Chinese New Year.”

Under the rules, announced earlier on Wednesday, restaurants will no longer be able to serve dine-in customers after 6pm. Earlier in the day, they’ll be limited in how many customers they can seat at a table, depending on their mode of operation.

Fifteen types of premises, including bars, gyms, entertainment venues, mahjong parlours and swimming pools, will be closed. The rules will apply for at least two weeks, with a review after seven days.

“This is a big disappointment for us,” Wong added. “And we are just afraid that our business might be hurt greatly.

“We are seeing that all the bookings for that (Lunar New Year) period might be cancelled. We have already ordered all the food for the celebration, and also have already employed a lot of people to serve during this period.

“And you know this kind of announcement would really hurt what we are preparing to do.”

A day earlier, Wong had welcomed the government’s decision to delay the expansion of rules preventing unvaccinated people from dining at restaurants. Officials had suggested the “vaccine bubble” arrangement would take effect before Lunar New Year, but it’s now scheduled to come into force on February 24.