Iconic Vidyarthi Bhavan Shuts Dine-in Services as Bengaluru Hoteliers Battle Fake News on Covid-19

South Bengaluru's famous Vidyarthi Bhavan, like other restaurants in the city, reopened on June 8 with all preacutionary measures in place. However, 20 days later, it has decided to suspend its dine-in services as the number of infections rise.

The restaurant had taken additional measures to ensure that all safety protocols were followed as per government guidelines. A picture of a fibre glass panel separating the seats on a table at the restaurant went viral on social media, as an example of the "new normal".

Arun Adiga, who owns the 77-year-old eatery, said, "In places like ours it is difficult to maintain social distancing during rush hours. People should understand this. We do not want to be labelled a place where people coming have the virus. Instead, I thought it's better we stopped dine in services."

Staggered footfall because of the increasing number of cases has brought down business by 50% compared to the state of affairs before the pandemic. Voluntarily shutting dine-in services would mean another 20% drop in revenues, but that is a price Adiga is willing to pay to keep the restaurant's reputation intact.

This concern for restaurant's reputation is not unfounded when there is fake news circulating, labelling the eatery as a potential "virus spreader". The viral messages list other iconic restaurants like the M avalli Tiffin Roon (MTR) and Brahmins Coffee Bar as "dangerous and potential places" for contracting the virus.

To tackle the fake news menace, the Bruhat Bangalore Hoteliers Association filed a complaint with the city police commissioner on Friday. "This is bad for the business and gives a wrong message to our customers, the public and our employees," said PC Rao, president of the association. "We have to track these people because this kind of fake news will generate more fear on the people and anxiety for the people," he added.

Like in many other sectors, business needs and reputation pressures of restaurants need to be balanced delicately. While some have chosen to voluntarily shut business verticals, many others are choosing to stay afloat.

"The increasing number of cases is definitely a worry but business has to continue as we have more than 500 employees to take care. We have to pay salaries at the end of the month", said Hemamalini Maiya, managing partner, MTR.