As the lockdown in Maharashtra ends on September 30, the Uddhav Thackeray-led government has prepared guidelines with the intent to reopen restaurants in the first week of October and shared them with stakeholders for feedback.
Restaurants in Maharashtra have remained closed for dine-in services since March when the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed. So far, restaurants have been only allowed to deliver food or pick-ups by customers.
"Once the rules are finalized (by stakeholders), we will take a decision to reopen restaurants," Chief Minister Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray said in a meeting with representatives of restaurant business associations from Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur via video conferencing on Monday.
The standard operating procedure (SOP) will be finalised after another round of meeting with restaurant representatives, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Sitaram Kunte said.
Hotel and restaurant associations of Maharashtra have welcomed the move.
"We thank Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who today assured us that restaurants will be allowed to reopen in the first week of October. He has agreed to consider our petition for waiver of excise licence fee for six months - the duration for which establishments were required to remain shut. Also, the deadline for deferment of payments towards first installment of the excise licence fee has been extended to September 30," said Sherry Bhatia, President of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India.
Emphasising that Maharashtra was still battling the coronavirus threat, Mr Thackeray laid emphasis on wearing masks, cleaning hands and maintaining physical distance while operating businesses amid the pandemic.
"It will be important to take care of the health of chefs and other staffers in restaurants. They must wear masks, clean hands and ensure safety and cleanliness," the chief minister said, and urged restaurateurs to join the state government's "My Family, My Responsibility" initiative.
Maharashtra remains India worst-hit state by the coronavirus pandemic with 13.4 lakh cases, out of which over 10.3 lakh have recovered. Some 35,571 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 - highest in any state.
The pandemic has paralyzed economic activity in the country's most industrialised state.
While hotels were allowed to reopen and operate with 100 per cent capacity under Unlock 4, Maharashtra's bars and restaurants remained closed.