Abu Hayat Mahmud: Restaurants and cafes in Dhaka are still struggling to return to normal after the setbacks of last July’s terrorist attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan. Foreign patronage has declined at restaurants in Gulshan 2, Banani and the Baridhara diplomatic area after the attack which resulted in the deaths of 17 foreigners at the upscale restaurant.
“Our sales have plummeted. The number of customers dropped by about 90% just after the Gulshan terror attack,” said Moyna, a shift manager at Gloria Jean’s Coffee in Gulshan 2. Of late, though the numbers have leveled out, business overall has yet to pick up momentum.
“Before the attack, we used to serve approximately 250 to 300 customers daily. The current average is around 150 to 200,” said Moyna. A Soi 71 security guard told the Dhaka Times that the foreigners once again had started visiting the restaurant after the security measures had been tightened, but the numbers are still low in comparison to what it used to be.
Echoing the guard, Soi 71 Manager Awolad said: “Foreigners are still panicking. This is why they are not coming to the area. It will take more time for the situation to stabilise.” During a recent visit to the Gulshan 2 area, this Dhaka Times correspondent found SURA, a Korean restaurant on Road 71, closed.
According to a SURA employee, since the Holey Artisan Bakery incident, customer presence had dropped by 50%, causing the bussiness to be shut down indefinitely. Staff at the newly opened Holey Artisan said their regular customers had started turning up again at the restaurant’s new outlet at the Gulshan 2 intersection.
“Even though some new customers have begun dropping by after we reopened, all the known faces have yet to show up. Some regular foreign guests left Bangladesh just after the terrorist attack,” said Sayeed, a sales executive of the Holey Artisan Bakery.
Abu Bakar Siddique, officer-in-charge of the Gulshan police station, said: “The presence of foreigners in the Gulshan area declined just after the terrorist attack. But their numbers are increasing again due to special security measures instilled by the law enforcement agencies in those areas.”
Tania, an American expat told the Dhaka Times: “I feel safer going out now since most establishments have heightened their security. Even Butler’s in Gulshan has a high volume of customers dining al-fresco and that always puts our minds at ease.”
Police have set up 12 check posts in the Gulshan-Banani-Baridhara areas as part of their increased security measures.
Mishal Karim, owner of Chows, an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Banani said: “The attack on Holey was a tragedy that affected everyone, especially the restaurant business. Even though operations have somewhat returned to normal, everything is a little different. The fear is always there.”
According to the Hotel, Guesthouse and Restaurant Owners’ Association of Bangladesh and the Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh, some 500 budget hotels, guest houses and restaurants are operating in Dhaka with an investment of around Tk5,000 crore and around 100,000 people are working in the sector.
Some 3,000 foreign guests stay in the existing residential hotels and guest houses and frequent the nearby restaurants. Records of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industries show there are 350 residential hotels, guest houses and restaurants in Gulshan and Banani. Altogether, they have an investment of around Tk525 crore.