Protests in Lahore to open the Banquet halls

Lahore, 31st May: Banquet hall owners and employees took it to the streets after the failure of dialogue with the government over the closure of banquet hall and Marquee owing to coronavirus lockdown.

Chanting anti-government slogans and carrying placards, and banners a large number of protestors gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club on Saturday.

Lahore Marriage Hall Association President Mian Ilyas highlighted that the marriage and banquet halls were ready to implement all the standard operating procedures (SOP) announced by the government.

In fact, he pointed out, office-bearers of their association have voluntarily submitted a set of SOPs, which includes installation of sanitization walkthrough tunnels, provision of hand sanitizers and face masks to the guests, 50% reduction in guests’ occupancy and minimum 5ft distance between seats, to Punjab Minister for Industries, Trade and Investment Mian Aslam Iqbal in a recent meeting.

Ilyas said there were around 10,000 marriage and banquet halls across Punjab. Conservative estimates indicated that around 700,000 families or 3.5 million population is earning their livelihood from this sector. The hospitality sector offers employment opportunities to both skilled and unskilled labor force. But owing to coronavirus lockdown right now this sector is struggling for its survival, he maintained.

“The government has recently recommended to the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) to allow restaurants to open their businesses. Earlier, restaurants were allowed to keep their takeaway services operational during the lockdown. But the government ordered marriage and banquet halls to close their business on March 14,” he said.

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A local banquet hall owner, Malik Ali Muhammad, said the government has opened industry, markets, shopping malls, offices, and public transport. Even it has given green signal to restaurants which have limited seating capacity and are hard to regulate in comparison with banquet halls.

Another, marriage hall owner, Muhammad Saleem, appealed to the government to permit banquet halls to function. This prolonged lockdown has broken the backbone of this sector which was not only providing thousands of jobs but also pulling trade of other sectors, like poultry, fish, meat, rice, fruit, and vegetables. People have invested billions of rupees in this sector and it is providing earning opportunities for uneducated and semi-literate youth. 

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