December 28, 2020 | tourism

Erbil hotel and restaurant owners protest ban on New Year celebrations

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Hotel and restaurant owners in Erbil protested on Sunday against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Interior’s decision to ban New Year celebrations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

A group of around 30 hotel, restaurant, and bar owners and managers gathered in Erbil’s Ainkawa neighbourhood on Sunday night against the Ministry of Interior and Erbil crisis cell’s decision to ban all New Year celebrations, and live music and parties until January 15.

“It is okay, we will not hold a party on New Year’s Eve, but they have made us close down for 21 days,” Riyadh Goran, manager of Erbil’s Bella Ranicia nightclub told Rudaw’s Hadi Salimi on Sunday. “We have to pay rent and taxes - I have bought 25-30 million dinar (approximately $17, 215 - $20,500) worth of goods that will go bad.”

“They have made us close down since the 24th of this month,” he added, saying tourists went to Sulaimani after the decision was announced – leading to yet more economic losses for local businesses.

A group of hotel owners also attended the gathering, claiming that this decision has pushed tourists out of Erbil.

“My hotel was completely emptied after the decision came out, and everyone left,” said Azad Abdi. “We rely on these celebrations like New Year, Newroz and such events to make a living, and now we do not know what to do.”

The KRG interior ministry has prohibited venues and 'public places' from holding celebrations for New Year on Thursday.

Places that flout the ban will face a 10 million dinar (approximately $6,900) fine and a month’s closure, according to a statement released by the ministry on Thursday.

The ministry also announced a host of other measures to combat the ongoing spread of coronavirus, including two million dinar (approximately $1,380) fines for “gatherings” including “parties, graveyard visits, and funerals.”

The decision expires on January 15, 2021.

Speaking to Rudaw on Sunday night, Erbil's mayor Nabaz Abdulhameed emphasized the threat the coronavirus still poses, but downplayed the extent of the ban on cafe and restaurant operations.

'Restaurants and cafes can open as usual while taking the required health measures, but parties are not permitted,' Abdulhameed said.

Erbil’s acting governor Hemin Qadir said business owners should have asked for permission to hold events before the ban was announced.

'The owners of those places should have asked for permission beforehand, and it is their responsibility to compensate the people they have sold tickets to,' Qadir told Rudaw's Sangar Abdulrahman on Thursday.

Coronavirus fears have grown worldwide with the announcement of a new variant of the virus moving through the United Kingdom, as well as other countries in Europe, and Australia.

There is not yet any concrete proof that the new variant of the virus is more dangerous than the existing strain, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, but it is more contagious.

The Kurdistan Region has adhered to the Iraqi Council of Ministers’ decision to ban flights to nine of the countries currently infected with the new strain of the virus – Britain, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iran, Japan, and Lebanon.


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