A victim of the coronavirus: Thai-Dane forced to shut down beloved restaurant in Laos

Thai-Danish Savija Pannark in her restaurant Dexter. Photo: Savija Pannark

Savija Pannark, a Thai-Danish woman living in Laos, is one of many people affected by the restrictions imposed by governments to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Savija Pannark has been forced to shut down her restaurant Dexter in Luang Prabang due to the many restrictions by the Laotian government, which includes social distancing and a closure of borders.

“When I realized I had to close Dexter because of the lack of tourist, logistic problems and a scared staff, I felt … acceptance. It was unfair, but I accepted it. I couldn’t change the situation, no matter how much I wanted to,” says Savija Pannark.

But the Thai-Danish restaurant owner had already prepared herself emotionally for the inevitable as soon as Savija heard the news of the neighboring countries’ restrictions and measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. Regarding her business Savija Pannark had informed the staff of Dexter in January that she would be forced to let half of them go. But the situation quickly turned from bad to worse during February and March.

“My staff feared contracting the virus, my suppliers had already closed their stores and there was a significant decrease in customers by that time. Shortly after, there were no customers,” says Savija Pannark to ScandAsia.

Photo: Savija Pannark.

And so on the 27 March Savija Pannark turned the key to her restaurant. Quickly the Thai-Dane began to worry about the future of Dexter.

“I began to worry about when I could reopen Dexter again. If I ever could open Dexter again. And if I could… will it even pay off in the end?” wonders the Thai-Dane.

Because even though Dexter has shut down, Savija still has bills, several expenses and loans to pay – but with little to no income. So, the longer Dexter is closed, the more money Savija would have to invest in reopening her beloved establishment. Savija predicts that she won’t be able to reopen Dexter again due to the increasing uncertainty of the situation.

Savija’s dream-scenario would be that she could reopen Dexter – but Savija knows that it’s merely a dream.

“Even if I could reopen Dexter by some magical coincidence, would any guests come by the restaurant? There will be no tourists in Laos for a long time and the local guests don’t have much money to eat out,” says the restaurant owner.

Savija Pannark sees the situation as her absolute worst-case scenario come to life: being forced to close Dexter by a situation that’s out of her hands.

“I would feel better if it was my own decision to close Dexter; if I wasn’t good at managing it or my food wasn’t good. But it isn’t like that,” says the Thai-Dane.

“All the money, blood, sweat, tears and hard work I have invested in Dexter have gone down the drain. Dexter is like my baby,” adds Savija Pannark.

Photo: Savija Pannark.

An uncertain future

The future concerns Savija Pannark now that she has been forced to shut down Dexter – while also losing her other job as General Manager for three hotels. So now, her biggest worry is not finding work.

“It’s more stressful for me to have nothing to do than being busy,” says Savija Pannark.

Will she be able to make ends meet? Will she be able to financially support herself? Savija Pannark has experienced no demand in her industry – neither in Laos or any other country, where people most commonly lose their jobs during the current health situation. But Savija has a positive mindset and drive to find new challenges, new experiences and adventures.

“Optimism and acceptance are the best way to through tough times,” says the unoccupied woman.

“I just can’t sit around and wait for things to return to normal,” added the Thai-Dane.

Savija has a history of working many different places, such as the Danish Embassy in Bangkok, being Director of the Chamber of Commerce – to mention a few. Her experience has brought the Thai-Dane many skills and competences within the fields of business administration, HR, accounting and management.

“I’m ready to give it all that I have,” says Savija Pannark to ScandAsia.

 

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