BEIRUT: Since September 2019, 785 food and beverage businesses have closed in Lebanon – a direct result of the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since the Civil War.
The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Night-Clubs and Pastry Shops announced in a statement Tuesday that the closures took place between Sept. 1, 2019, and Feb. 1, 2020. The body highlighted that 240 businesses had been shuttered in January 2020 alone.
The syndicate added that food businesses are suffering both from the instability of the Lebanese pound and punishing parallel exchange rates.
“The purchase of raw materials from suppliers is made in the dollar exchange rate of the black market, at LL2,500; while business owners still rely on the official dollar exchange rate of LL1,515 in their dealings with customers,” president of the syndicate Tony Ramy said in the statement.
According to the syndicate’s figures, Mount Lebanon is the worst-affected area, with a closure rate of 54.6 percent, followed by Beirut at 29.4 percent. North Lebanon fared better, with a rate of 6.7 percent and south Lebanon at 6.6 percent.
Shortly after the statement was released, Pizza Hut said it would be temporarily closing all its branches in Lebanon for two days, because it was unable to receive a shipment of “of essential ingredients,” due to the economic situation, an operator told The Daily Star. The operator said that the restaurant chain is expected to receive the shipments in the next two days.
The Gathering, a beloved restaurant in the Gemmayze area of Beirut, announced via Instagram Monday that it would be closing its doors after 10 years. “This was my home for the past decade,” the farewell post read.
“We’re putting in all the efforts, like asking for adjustments on loan repayments ... but it all just falls down to stability and the economic and political situation – all we can do is wait,” syndicate spokesperson Maya Noon told The Daily Star.
Noon said that the syndicate expects matters to worsen if no solution to Lebanon’s economic challenges is found.
Lebanon's economy and finances have deteriorated significantly over the past year, with zero growth and low inflows of remittances from abroad.
While the Lebanese pound has officially been pegged to the U.S. dollar at L1507.5 since 1998, increasing dollar shortages have pushed unofficial rates above LL2,500. This has threatened imports of essential goods from abroad and reduced individual purchasing power.