National, Back Page

Mushroom growth of eateries in city

Safety measures nil

Published : 03 Mar 2024 10:40 PM | Updated : 05 Mar 2024 08:01 PM
  • t

Hundreds of restaurants and coffee shops have sprung up all over the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country in violation of safety rules, posing potential risk of fire.

As per the rules, offices are allowed in commercial buildings, but permission of the authorities concerned is required for setting up restaurants in buildings for commercial use.

But owners of most of the commercial buildings do not give a dam to permission. They set up restaurants and coffee shops in their buildings, flouting rules.

If there is a restaurant in any commercial building, there should have fire-extinguishing system, emergency exit and adequate ventilation system.  

Restaurants should have a variety of safety signs or indicators to alert employees and customers.

Adil Mohammed Khan, president of Bangladesh Institute of Planners (BIP), said converting a commercial building into a restaurant building is illegal and it should not be allowed.

“As per rules, many buildings have two staircases. But, in many buildings, the fire exit stairs are being used as a storage area. The authorities should take appropriate steps to discourage this,” he said.

There is now a trend of setting up 

several restaurants in multi-storied buildings all over the capital.

At least a dozen such buildings have sprung up on both sides of Satmasjid Road in Dhanmondi, each housing up to 20 restaurants and eateries.

During a visit to Dhanmondi Satmasjid Road in the capital it was seen that multi-storied buildings on both sides of the road have restaurants on each floor. Some buildings have up to 30 restaurants. Most of them have no firefighting system.

There are 14 restaurants at Gawsia Twin Peak Building in Dhanmondi No. 15. Bank and showroom up to three floors of the building. There are restaurants from 4th to 11th floor. Some floors have up to three restaurants.

The building was designed by architect Mustafa Khalid Palash. He wrote on Facebook, “Fire safety at Gawsia Twin Peak is inadequate. “Don’t use the building for your own safety.”

A manager of a restaurant in Gawsia Twin Peak building, preferring anonymity, said, “After the fire on Bailey Road, fire extinguishers have been brought and hung at different sides of the building. The fire exit stairs have also been cleaned recently.”

This manager said that most of the restaurants in Dhanmondi area have been built with the permission of the fire service. The fire service officials took bribes from restaurants and coffee shops. Besides, they get special honours from the restaurants when they come to visit. 

As a result, fire service inspectors often do not list many restaurants as fire risky, he added.

The manager claims that although fire officials sometimes give notices, no action is taken.

Just opposite to Gawsia Twin Peak there is Imperial Amin Ahmed Centre. Nothing can be seen on this building except the signboard of the restaurant. On the 13th floor of the building is ‘The Forest Lounge’ a popular restaurant. The building has two stairs. Both are not so big.

Youtube and TikTok video creators always flock here. To go to this restaurant, people stand in a long line for lift, said Rahim Sheikh, a nearby tea shopkeeper. 

He showed the nameplate of ‘The Cafe Rio’ in the building and said that this restaurant is also very popular. Hundreds of people flock here every day to eat and drink.

Dulal Mahmud, who came to eat at ‘The Cafe Rio’ on Saturday, said, “I often come there. There is no place to spend time with family in the capital. So he came to the restaurant on holiday.” 

 “It takes half an hour to get the lift. Thousands of people came every day. If an accident happens at that time, the situation will be worse than Bailey Road,” he added. 

Although Dhanmondi is known as a residential area, the commercial buildings along the main road here have now remained occupied by eateries. 

Many people come to these buildings to roam around, eat and drink and hang out. These restaurants remain crowded most of the time as it is residential area. Besides, there is a number of schools, colleges and universities here.

According to source at the Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association, there are around 300 restaurants in Dhanmondi and Mohammadpur areas alone.

The sources also said there are 12 types of licenses required to open a restaurant. However, it is not possible to say for sure how many business establishments have taken certificates or they have any certificate according to proper standards.

According to architects and town planners, most of the buildings on Satmasjid Road are for commercial use, which Rajuk has categorized as F-1. They are only allowed to set up offices of different organisations.

But, lack of demand for office space and the comparatively high profitability of the restaurant business – building owners are flouting these rules.

A RAJUK official said, “Unless the category of the building is changed with the permission of the City Corporation and Fire Service - a restaurant cannot be opened in a building designated for commercial use.”

Experts said the risk of fire is high in the buildings where there are more restaurants,. That is why regulatory authorities like RAJUK need to take strict action against building code violators.

In one of the worst fire tragedies, at least 46 people, including 26 women and three children, were killed and 22 critically injured in a devastating fire that broke out in a seven-storey building housing ‘Kacchi Bhai’ outlet on Bailey Road in the capital on Thursday night.