Nima | Gelephu

It is a landmark, a favourite place for those with a sweet palate and a place where the young and the old alike visit for a quick glass of chilled lassi, the hot samosas or alo chhat.

Those who live in Gelephu cannot miss the Ashok Hotel, a restaurant in the heart of the town that many remember as old as the town. The structure has changed and the town’s residents will now miss the quick bites or get used to a new taste. Operators of the hotel had left for India after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted their business.

Gelephu is the only high-risk area that has not reported any case from the community for almost a year, but the pandemic has forced some businesses to close shops. Ashok Hotel is not the only one. With the pandemic affecting business, more businesses run by Indian businessmen have sold their business or are planning to leave.

It was learned that two business firms, Chomden Tshongkhang and Ashok Hotel operated by Indians have already left.

Both the shop owners couldn’t employ additional staff after many left for home in India. Some owners couldn’t return because the gate remained closed.

A businessman in Gelephu, Bajrang, said that more shop owners are planning to wind up their business,as it has become difficult to run the business in the town. “It has become difficult to bring in staff and relatives,” said Bajrang.

The owner of a wholesale outlet said that the current situation could lead to disruption in the business chain and increase price of commodities.

Nima Grocery, one of the oldest shops in the town, plans to discontinue business in a few months. The shop is facing a shortage of workers.

At the Ashok Hotel, the new owner Anup Archarya and his mother are preparing to close their restaurant for the day. It is 8pm. Except  for the two staff working in the hotel, there are no customers. Anup said that there are not many people visiting the restaurant today. “It might be because of the pandemic. Other restaurants are facing a similar situation.”

Anup is trying.  “We didn’t increase the price, but the expenditures are high and there are no local workers,” he said. Ashok Hotel has recruited a pastry chef and will still sell sweets. If it can live up to the expectation of the residents would be another challenge.

“We are not able to get the required raw materials for now. Almost all recipes should be imported,” said Anup.

Ashok Hotel started their business from Sarpang and was shifted to Gelephu following a flood in 1996. The restaurant was in service for decades.