Younten Tshedup

A group of snooker operators in Thimphu have written to the Prime Minister to allow them to reopen businesses pledging strict safety measures, last week.

Citing a major financial crisis with the closure of business, the group consisting of more than 40 operators have proposed reopening from next month.

The group made a similar plea in April, as they started to feel the brunt from the business closure.

“After three months of the shutdown, we have been facing a lot of difficulties in paying our rents, utility bills, and even for food. And meeting the needs of our children,” states the letter addressed to the Prime Minister.

For many, the letter stated that the business was their only source of income to raise their families.

Operation of businesses that involved a mass gathering of people such as snooker clubs, drayangs and discotheques, among others, were temporarily suspended as a precaution to Covid-19 pandemic in March.

One of the operators in Thimphu, Jigme Nidup, said that paying rent for the club has become a big challenge. “Although the building owner has considered certain concessions on the monthly rent, it is still difficult to pay the remaining as there is no income.”

With Nu 10,000 discount, Jigme Nidup pays Nu 20,000 every month for renting the club in the Hong Kong market area.

He started driving a taxi to earn to pay the rent. “I can barely make enough to pay for the rental of the taxi. Since we can take only two passengers, it’s difficult to make any profit.”

He has recently employed his eldest son near the Centenary Farmers’ Market to help shops load and unload goods. “He makes about Nu 9,000 that goes in paying the house rent and for groceries.”

With the final month of the rent discount, loan and interest waiver coming to an end, Jigme Nidup is worried. He said he pays Nu 9,700 monthly for the loan he took to buy the club.

“I wanted to sell off the place, but the owner had asked for a two-month advance if I wanted to do that,” he said. “With no other option, we decided to approach the Prime Minister.”

He said that while few of the operators received the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu, the majority of them did not qualify.

On an average, Jigme Nidup made Nu 1,500 to Nu 3,000 daily from the two snooker boards he has at the club.

Other operators said that more than the snooker clubs, places like restaurants, hotels and mobile shops attracted bigger crowds.

“While these businesses can operate, as usual, it would be only fair if we are allowed to do the same,” said another operator.

The group has also assured in the letter that if the government allows them to reopen, some safety and preventative measures would be in place.

From cleaning the site and equipment regularly to providing hand sanitisers on all tables and at the entrance, allowing a limited number of people on each table, ensuring clients to wear masks and closing the business by 7pm, the operators guaranteed strict measures.

Should any club be found in breach of the guidelines, operators said that they would be liable to close by the relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, according to the officials from Prime Minister’s Office, the government is studying the status of all restrictions imposed against the present Covid-19 situation, on all fronts.