Lebanese restaurants suffer as garbage crisis continues

Published July 30th, 2015 - 10:27 GMT
Small businesses have been severely hit by the pile-up as fewer customers enter the establishments. (AFP/File)
Small businesses have been severely hit by the pile-up as fewer customers enter the establishments. (AFP/File)

As the seemingly unending garbage crisis continues to frustrate residents of Beirut and Mount Lebanon, the repulsive heaps of trash, intolerable stench and frequent road closures have not spared restaurants, with some reporting that business has been severely hit.

“It’s a big problem because they’re not picking up garbage and the garbage is at the doors of our restaurants,” said Dory Daccache, former president of the Restaurants Syndicate of Lebanon and current chairman and CEO of Food Kapital Holding Sal. “This affects hygiene and causes bad smells.”

“The trash piles are very near our restaurant,” Spaghetteria owner Samdi Ghadban said. “We have to close the kitchen windows and keep the restaurant doors completely closed to keep the smell out.”

He said the window closures were affecting employees because the air conditioners could not properly ventilate kitchen on their own.

Ghadban said that the restaurant has served fewer customers over the past seven to ten days due to the garbage crisis. “People think that our restaurant is closed because we have to close the inner and outer doors to keep the stench out,” he explained.

In addition, he said, customers are finding it difficult to come to the restaurant because “it has affected the valet service.” Spaghetteria’s valet booth sits between the restaurant and a mountain of trash.

“When people need to pass the restaurant and park their cars, it’s [become a] tight [passage due to the piles of trash] and the smell is strong ... They have to wait for the valet service to park [or retrieve] their cars and deal with the smell.”

Café Hamra, another restaurant in Beirut, also complained of difficulties in adequately ventilating the venue, with an employee explaining that the eatery was unable to keep its doors that face Hamra Street open in order to let smoke out.

But while Spaghetteria reported a decline in business due to the accumulated garbage, Café Hamra claimed to have witnessed an uptick in activity. “When this story started, business actually got stronger,” the source at the restaurant said. “This is because people want to go out to forget the ongoing situation ... Since July 22 we saw more of a crowd.”

He noted, however, that this did not mean he was enjoying the garbage situation as the restaurant was affected in other ways.

Besides the aforementioned stench and ventilation issues, one problem that Café Hamra has faced is the lack of space to dump its own trash. The employee who spoke to The Daily Star said the location where they take their garbage in Hamra had been temporarily closed, but eventually reopened.

When asked about the impact of the stench on Café Hamra’s outdoor seating area, the employee explained that the outdoor area was situated between residential buildings and the stench did not reach guests during the day. But he added that at night the smell was a little more noticeable.

Asked whether people seemed to be going out as usual, Daccache said, “People are still going out but the smells are impacting us and it’s a problem. I don’t know what the solution will be.”

An employee at BarbraRestaurant in Hamra also claimed that business has been “better than usual.” He explained that Barbra’sreputation was well-known and as a result the eatery had not been affected by the garbage predicament. The employee at the fast-food restaurant claimed that Barbrahad removed most of the trash around the restaurant itself but the government had yet to pick up the garbage at the far end of the restaurant.

An Italian restaurant in Gemmayzeh which only offers indoor-seating also claimed that business had not been as affected as at some other restaurants because, according to the restaurant manager, the eatery was not located near any piles of garbage.

“Where we are, there’s no garbage ... but of course people smell the stench outside and they might be deterred from going out ... There are no smells in this area. The garbage piles are located two roads down ... in Mar Mikhael though, they are definitely being affected since the garbage is right next to them,” the manager said.

He added that business had been rather typical, but he noted that the closure of streets, and especially the closure of Banks Street two days ago, had affected Gemmayzeh as a whole. “Gemmayzeh was empty.” he said.

Daccache said the road closures had not particularly impacted the delivery of supplies to restaurants. “Until now, it’s only been two or three days [of road closures] but if it continues it will become a problem,” he added.

Ghadban, on the other hand, said that one delivery of supplies to Spaghetteria had been delayed an entire day.

He also noted that the road closures had affected employees’ commutes to work and pushed customers to cancel reservations. “[Sunday and Monday] we were sitting by ourselves,” he said, adding that Sundays typically would be a busy day for the restaurant.

Ghadban also said the low turnout was negatively affecting inventory turnover as food products were not being used at the usual pace and were expiring on the shelves, so Spaghetteria has had to throw many products out.

“This is costly,” he said.

By Maryam Hoballah

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