Dozens of Businesses Closed in Turkmen Capital

A variety of private businesses in Ashgabat have been sealed off over the past 10 days: popular cafes and restaurants, car sales and service centers, and shops selling car parts. Although the owners are not talking about the reasons, some say the closures are linked to checks following a series of domestic gas explosions in Ashgabat — many of the businesses are located on the ground floor of residential buildings.

The instruction to close the businesses was issued by the office of the capital’s mayor and personally by its head Shamuhammet Durdylyyev. The restaurants Nevada Steakhouse on Shevchenko Street, Melbourne Burger on Mahtumkuli Avenue (the branch in the Berkarar shopping mall is still open), the Altyn achar cafe and Kenek sweet shop, also on Mahtumkuli Avenue, and the Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, and Hyundai centers have all been sealed off. 

“The police are not allowing vehicle owners onto the territory of these service centers, but without explaining why,” a source said. He added that the police themselves were affected by the ban, as many get their private cars serviced there. 

According to sources, practically all the small service centers in the 11th district of Ashgabat have been closed. That is where an explosion occurred in a bread and pastry shop at the end of July. The shop was located in a residential building. The explosion is presumed to have been caused by a domestic gas leak, although sources reported that an oxygen canister had blown up. 

Another source doubts that averting tragedy is the reason for the closures, especially of the car showrooms, since these are located in freestanding buildings. 

“The closure of these facilities coincided with the rumors of the president’s death, i.e. before the second explosion in the bread shop,” he said. “Be that as it may, bearing in mind the lamentable state of the economy, such actions by the mayor’s office not only fail to encourage the development of private business, but lead to a drain of Turkmen capital and human potential abroad.”

Nevertheless, workers and owners of these establishments complain about lost profits from the shutdowns. Some restaurants are ignoring the ban and at their own risk letting in customers through the service entrance. 

Update: On August 1, the Melbourne Burger restaurant reopened for business, according to its social media page.