THE Balti Chef has become the first takeaway in Middlewich to close amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Owner and chef Afique Miah said he wanted to protect the safety of his staff and customers.

The Indian takeaway on Wheelock Street has decided to stop serving food from today.

"It was a very hard decision to take," said dad-of-four Afique. "But safety comes first. Last night was our last service. It is only a small shop and on Saturday we had 10-15 people in one go. It is very difficult to handle.

"We served around 100 meals on Friday and Saturday. Some people don't know if they have the virus and might cause contamination. We have a lot of elderly customers. We have to protect our staff and customers."

Winsford Guardian:

Chef and owner Afique Miah opened The Balti Chef 23 years ago

Afique, 46, whose family come from Bangladesh, opened his business 23 years ago.

"We have a lot of loyal customers," he said. "We have a very good relationship with the local community. We have been in the town for such a long time. It is in my blood and everything connected to the business means so much to me."

Four staff work at the takeaway including chef Afique, a second chef, waiter and delivery driver.

"The Government has announced that they will fund 80 per cent of employees' wages so I hope that will happen," said Afique.

"I did have a word with the staff and gave them the choice, explaining it was for their safety. They all agreed with me."

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In 2006, he said, the takeaway was destroyed in an arson attack and was closed for six months but rose from the ashes.

"It was burnt down," said Afique."But as soon as we re-opened our trade came back straightaway.

"We like our customers and our customers like us. As soon as this situation gets better we will be back."