Islamabad: Restaurants cannot be stopped from serving customers in outdoor dining unless they violated the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
A Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has observed that sit-out cafes had become a global phenomenon and creative use of street rows and sidewalks have been increased in different countries during the COVID-19.
The recent outbreak of coronavirus has further added to their popularity and appeal because of the approved health advisory to maintain social distance as probable safety precaution against this Pan-demic, ruled the court.
Justice Jawad Hassan of the LHC gave these observations while dismissing a petition which had challenged the establishment of a food street on the Hospital Road in Saddar area of Rawalpindi.
The counsel for the petitioner had pointed out that converting a section of public road/street into a food street, was purely a commercial activity and the section of the road that was being developed as Food Street was often blocked for general public and vehicular movement during the peak hours of the evening.
This caused grave hardship and inconvenience to all the inhabitants of the area, people visiting Cantonment Hospital as well as the commuters who visit or pass through the area, he further argued.
The petitioner had argued that at a time when the fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic had gripped the country the respondents had blocked a section of the Hospital Road which led to the Cantonment General Hospital and other areas during the peak hours of the evening causing great inconvenience not only to the emergency and rescue services but also those visiting cantonment hospital, he added.
According to the petitioner while travelling from Haider Road towards the Cantonment General Hospi-tal in the evening, he found a section of the road closed for vehicular movement.
On enquiry, he was told that the road was blocked by the respondents/Cantonment Board by estab-lishing a food street. This forced him to file a plea in the LHC.
He argued that establishing the food street by blocking the Hospital Road also defied common sense and logic. At a time when the entire world was under the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and public gatherings were being discouraged, the respondents had established the food street by ignoring all health and safety warnings.
The court, however, did not agree with the arguments and dismissed the plea observing: “Six feet social distance criteria encouraged the culture of sit out cafes worldwide and increased its clientele rapidly. Maintaining outdoor dining area in a clean and sanitary condition is the foremost requirement for a sit out café and its utility stands further elevated because of the fact that it would be easier to follow social distancing guidelines in sit out cafes in comparison to the indoor cafes.”