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Pan Shop Owners Voice Concerns Over Competing Offerings from Bars and Restaurants, Raising Questions of Fairness

โ€ฆ๐’‚๐’” ๐’ƒ๐’‚๐’“๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’…๐’Š๐’—๐’†๐’“๐’”๐’Š๐’‡๐’š ๐’๐’‡๐’‡๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ๐’”, ๐‘ท๐’‚๐’ ๐‘บ๐’‰๐’๐’‘ ๐‘ถ๐’˜๐’๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐‘ท๐’‰๐’–๐’†๐’๐’•๐’”๐’‰๐’๐’๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’‰๐’– ๐’“๐’‚๐’Š๐’”๐’† ๐’‚๐’๐’‚๐’“๐’Ž๐’” ๐’๐’—๐’†๐’“ ๐’“๐’†๐’—๐’†๐’๐’–๐’† ๐’•๐’‰๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’•๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’–๐’๐’‡๐’‚๐’Š๐’“ ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’‘๐’†๐’•๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’

Sonam Deki

In a recent news development, pan shop proprietors in Phuentsholing and Thimphu have expressed growing apprehension over the encroachment of bars and restaurants into their longstanding product domain. The local pan shop owners are alarmed by the increasing trend of these competing establishments entering their traditional market, offering identical items that have been their staple products. This emerging scenario has sparked a sense of unease among the pan shop community, who are now grappling with the looming possibility of losing customers and experiencing a slump in their revenues due to the broader array of products now available from their rivals.

In a recent interview, Cheychey, a pan shop owner in Phuentsholing, expressed his concerns about the sale of similar products by bars and restaurants in the area. He questioned the convenience and fairness of this situation, wondering if such establishments should be permitted to offer products that are traditionally associated with pan shops. Cheychey said, “Bars and restaurants are selling the same items that pan shops offer. It is quite inconvenient for pan shops like us. So, I am just wondering if they are allowed to sell all these items.”

His comments shed light on an issue that has been bothering local pan shop owners, who have long been the primary sellers of products like tobacco, betel nut, and other pan-related items. The emergence of bars and restaurants selling these products has left pan shop owners questioning the level playing field. Cheychey further added, “By looking at this, it also implies that we pan shop owners are allowed to sell the same items as bars and restaurants.”

This sentiment is shared by many pan shop owners who feel that the recent expansion of product offerings by bars and restaurants encroaches upon their traditional market space. While Cheychey did not explicitly call for any regulatory changes, his words have ignited a debate within the local business community.

Tshering, a pan shop owner in Thimphu, has voiced a heartfelt plea for the exclusivity of their traditional products, including doma, to be upheld by other establishments, particularly bars. The increasing presence of these items in competing shops has led to customer attrition and dwindling revenue for pan shops like hers. Moreover, Tshering conveyed, “It would be greatly appreciated if other shops, including bars, could refrain from selling our products. We are witnessing a decline in our customer base and revenue due to this trend. If the sale of doma and related items continues in these establishments, the majority of our customers might prefer purchasing from larger shops like theirs.”

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment stated, “Pan shops were terms used prior to 2006, and people still prefer such shop names for themselves. The business activity of the pan shops falls under the Micro Trade Registration Certificate (MTRC), which allows them to engage in general retail business with a yearly turnover not exceeding 1 million. While pan shops can sell packaged food items similar to those offered by other MTRC license holders, they are restricted from preparing or serving these products on-site.”

“Until June 2022, the establishments that were permitted to sell alcohol were referred to as bars. Presently, two categories of restaurants exist: those authorized to sell alcohol and those restricted from doing so. Both types of restaurants are permitted to provide on-site consumption of the following items: non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee, cold drinks, and water; all types of prepared food, including fast food; and alcoholic beverages (limited to restaurants permitted to sell alcohol),” they added.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Employment clarified, “There is no overlap. As mentioned above, MTRC allows sales in raw packaged form to customers for takeaway, whereas restaurants prepare the raw packaged products and serve them on-site, including opening bottles of soft drinks/alcoholic beverages and serving them at the location. However, there might be exceptions.”

They further added, “Our Regional Office of Industry, Commerce, and Employment (ROICE) in the respective regions will conduct regular inspections and monitoring. They will also raise awareness during these inspections to address this issue. Repeated offenders identified during the inspection and monitoring will be penalized accordingly.”

The evolving dynamics between pan shops, bars, and restaurants highlight the challenges that arise when traditional businesses encounter new competition in an ever-changing market landscape. As the debate continues, stakeholders will likely look to local authorities for guidance and potential solutions to maintain a fair and balanced business environment.

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