Mumbai: Maharashtra government and BMC give cold shoulder to hospitality industry

Mumbai hotels and restaurant owners are unhappy with the Maharashtra government and BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for not fulfilling their demands made in a bid to revive the sector. Though the corporation had used hotels during the lockdown to accommodate COVID-19 warriors and for quarantine purposes and the sector had supported the move, but as agreed, several of them have not been paid properly for their services.

One of the aggrieved hoteliers Paramjit Singh Ghai, the managing partner of Hotel Samrat in Khar, said that BMC has been giving them a cold shoulder. "BMC has paid the accommodation bills of hotels similar to what they paid for using open grounds and schools, amongst others, which is incorrect. Moreover, now, the state government wants us to pay excise duty on/before March 31 for this financial year. Since we are operating at 50 per cent capacity, a discount should be offered in the payment, including the installment facility. Also, BMC had promised a concession on property tax. However, concerned civic ward officers have not been told. Therefore, we are facing a lot of financial crises." The state Excise Department, on Wednesday, has issued a notice to the hospitality industry to renew the license, failing which the license is set for cancellation.

Several hoteliers and restaurant owners also expressed disappointment over BMC's surprise raids to check whether COVID-19 protocols are being followed. Ghai questioned how patrons are expected to wear a mask while having food and drinks? "The civic officials visit restaurants and hotels, shoot a video and impose a fine of Rs 30,000. It seems that they believe our hotel industry is earning huge profit, which is not the case. They should understand that already we are operating at 50 per cent of the capacity. Now, taking such action is ruining our business further."

Reportedly, BMC, as per the fresh COVID-19 prevention guidelines, has been conducting raids in hotels, restaurants and function halls. It had also lodged a First Information Report (FIR) and imposed fines against a few for violating the norms.

Commenting on the grievances raised, Pradeep Shetty, senior vice president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) stated, "Some relief has come our way and we are appreciative of it. However, many issues are still pending, like installment and discount on excise duty fees in lieu of the stringent restrictions continuing on our industry, waiver of property tax, and payment to hoteliers who had helped the government at the time of lockdown."

Reportedly, amidst the lockdown, over 3,000 hotel rooms were taken over by BMC for essential staffers in Mumbai on a no profit and loss basis. A committee was also set up, wherein it was decided that hoteliers will be paid as per their star ratings. However, the corporation has not fulfilled the promise as agreed and only a meagre amount was paid that disappointment hoteliers.

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