Rajesh Rai | Chukha

Forty-two-year-old Yangchen Lhamo’s daily income today is about Nu 1,500. Before the pandemic, her daily income was about Nu 15,000.

Yangchen’s restaurant and bar, Duetse Jungney, along the Damchu-Chukha bypass in Chukha, on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway, attracted many travelers, mostly Indian tourists. Every day, four public passenger buses stopped by.

This is not the case today.

“Business is going badly,” she said.  Only one bus stop by in two weeks. “The buses are running on rotation basis these days.”

Truck drivers are her primary customers these days, she said. However, truckers have a highway rate of Nu 100 per meal and it is not as profitable.

After Damchu bypass was inaugurated in July 2018, most restaurants from Tsimasham moved along the new highway.

The owner of Shedrup P Restaurant and Bar said business was doing well until Covid-19 came.

“We used to have seven to eight public transport buses prior,” he said. “Not anymore. A bus is also allowed to carry only 10 passengers and passenger prefer not to eat at the restaurant.”

The business would improve if the closing time is extended from 7pm.

“More than 70 percent of business is down due to the pandemic,” he said.

Although vehicle movement on the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway is not restricted, the number of vehicles plying have reduced.

The owner of Ghalley Restaurant, Durga Maya Ghalley, said that she had even decided to close her restaurant business after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, there were local customers,” she said.

She said that the officials from the dzongkhag have asked them to keep the business open.

Durga Maya said that she was fortunate that her landlord waived more than 60 percent of the restaurant rent.

She has retained her six staff.

“We keep operating but the business dynamics has changed entirely,” she said.