Fifteen people from unknown government departments visited a non-halal restaurant in Gadong, Brunei’s commercial district yesterday and gave the management and service crew a verbal warning against serving food to diners at its premises during fasting hours. Speaking at an interview with Brunei Times, the manager of the restaurant said it was not clear which government agencies the 15 men were representing as they allegedly did not properly identify themselves. Requesting that his shop not be named, he said that authorities should identify themselves properly when conducting inspections and raids.
“If they were wearing name tags, then I would know. Normally they wear name tags or at least wear uniforms,” he said, adding that they took the names and other personal details of the employees as well as customers found dining at the premises. The manager said he was out exercising at the time the 15 people inspected the shop. He said the customers were held momentarily by the authorities at the restaurant until he showed up. The mentioned restaurant in Gadong was among a number of non-halal restaurants offering food at their premises during the fasting hours despite the daytime dine-in ban during the month of Ramadhan.
An owner of a Chinese restaurant located at Jalan Tutong said he decided to open his business for dine-in during the past few days because some restaurants were doing it as well. “We had to open because we need to cover our expenses like rental, electricity and workers’ salary,” said the owner who likewise requested not to be named. “If we do not need to pay for our bills, then not opening our business for a month is not a problem.” Revenues from take-away orders do not match earnings from dine-in customers who tend to buy additional food and drinks, he said.
Another owner of a Chinese restaurant said the number of take-away orders had diminished over the past week. Restaurant operators complained that there was no official written notice from the authorities regarding the “no daytime dine-in” policy. “We knew about it (the ban) from the media and so we had to follow because (the reports) quoted a government official,” said one restaurant owner. “If there is an official notice given in advance, at least we can prepare early like recruiting fewer workers and calculate our expenses,” he said.
Yet another owner of a Chinese restaurant said he has lost almost 40% of sales ever since the ban was imposed. “During the first week (of Ramadhan), we only managed to get few hundred (dollars)… sometimes not even half the normal day’s sales”, he said, adding that they opened as early as 6am until 9pm to cater for their non-Muslim customers. He stressed that they had to start opening their restaurants and serving dine-in customer (running in contrary to the ban) in order to compensate for the losses made during the first week of fasting.
The Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) in a press conference last month said if a restaurant was caught serving food or drinks to dine-in customers during the fasting hours, it will be assumed that the owner of the restaurant is abetting a crime and will be liable for punishment. Under Chapter 195 of the Syariah Penal Code Order, any individual found eating, drinking or inhaling anything in public could receive a fine of up to B$4,000 and/or a maximum of one-year imprisonment. Public places include restaurants, food courts, cafes and markets.