WION in Dhaka: Slow turnover at restaurants one year after cafe attack
A screen grab of the Holey Artisan Bakery which was the site of the attack in Dhaka on July 1, 2016. Photograph: (WION)
The barring of foreigners from a popular Dhaka restaurant this week has caused frustration among some visitors, and reminded them of the security crisis in the Bangladeshi capital.
“Due to Holey Artisan incident and after receiving a notice from our landlord; we are not allowing any foreigners in our restaurant. We are ashamed and pitiful from our soul for this message. Please accept our apologies and wait till further notice,” reads the notice hanging from the gate outside the Lake Terrace restaurant in Dhaka.
A German tourist, who was refused entry into the restaurant, told WION, “I was never thinking about the incident in 2016 but this message reminded me and now I am a little bit more tensed.”
Many restaurant owners here in Dhaka said they are still recovering from the loss they suffered in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery that killed 20 diners, 17 of them foreigners, in July 2016.
Some Dhaka restaurants have seen a drop in visitors of more than 20 per cent.
I do not want foreigners in my restaurant if that makes my business a target for terrorists,' said one restaurant owner who asked not to be named
“It was slow during the first couple of months (after the terrorist attack). People were scared. But after two months, people got rid of their fear. They started coming again,” said Arif Shafique, one of the owners of Tokyo Express, a popular Japanese restaurant.
Some restaurateurs told WION they are apprehensive of a second attack, and that they do not know when or how it will take place.
“I do not want foreigners in my restaurant if that makes my business a target for terrorists,” said one restaurant owner who asked not to be named.
A year after the audacious terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, Bangladeshis ask two questions: Are we safer today than we were a year before? And where do we go from here? (WION)
Dhaka's restaurants have beefed up their security and screening systems so that their patrons feel safer.
“If you are inviting somebody to a space where you are responsible then you have to do as much as possible to ensure that people are safe and secure, not exclude or discriminate,” said Ali Arsalan, one of the owners of the Holey Artisan Bakery.
Other foreigners WION spoke to said they do not feel unsafe.
“I have gone out to a few restaurants and I really enjoyed them. I live in the Gulshan area and there is a lot of security,” said Mariko, a US tourist in Dhaka.
“I feel rather secured. I can walk freely and I don’t feel any problem,” said Wim, a Dutch expatriate in Dhaka.
They say security is a global crisis and not the concern of any one country.
“I think discouraging a German national (from visiting the Lake Terrace restaurant) is an overreaction. One solitary German being refused should not determine the safety of a city or that terror still looms large,” said Shantanu Mukherji, a security analyst in New Delhi, India.
To think Bangladesh will have a zero-terror future would be a mistaken perception when western countries with very sophisticated intelligence and security systems are struggling to contain terror, he told WION.
“We should be mentally prepared to see one or two attacks because the sleeper cells or the terror outfits like Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh are waiting in the wings to strike,” he added.
Bangladesh’s export revenues as of April 2017 were $6 billion short of the financial year 2015-16 which saw an earning of $34.4 billion.
Many foreign investors cancelled trips to and moved orders out of the country in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery.
“Overall visitors have gone down. Numbers are down by may be about 20 per cent plus based on sales and revenue. I have heard from friends in foreign companies that if 10 expats have left, only six of them have been replaced. So you can assume that there is a drop there,” Arsalan told WION.
Businessmen in Dhaka say it is a matter of time before confidence is rekindled in visitors, locals and foreigners alike, and much depends on how they and the government take steps to ensure their security and comfort.