Restaurateurs have been given a gloomy business outlook for the winter ahead despite signs that the Occupy protests are about to wrap up. The Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, which represents about 6,000 eateries and bars, blamed the Occupy Central movement for a loss in business of more than HK$3 billion since it began in late September, when main roads in core commercial areas of Mong Kok, Admiralty, and Causeway Bay were blocked by protesters. The loss represented roughly three per cent of the turnover of the entire sector in a year, but the federation said it could take affected establishments up to two years to make it up, given the industry's thin profit margins. Citing federation estimates, its president, Simon Wong Ka-wo, said: "Roughly, the business turnover for October and November used to be about HK$17.5 billion. So we are talking a more than 17 per cent drop in turnover in the two months this year." "In the past, restaurants got bookings for the Christmas and New Year season as early as October," Wong said. "But this year, some of them reported that bookings only came in recent days." The government has plans to clear the protest sites in Admiralty today, after a similar clearance operation in Mong Kok last month. Wong said: "We hope the clearance [in Admiralty] can be peaceful, so daily life can return to normal and business can start picking up." But Wong expressed worries over possible uncertainties, citing Mong Kok, where some radical activists returned to stage rallies on the street even after the clearance, forcing some shops to close for business during the night. The total business turnover of the sector was about HK$95 billion last year, according to the federation. And it was estimated the figure for this year could pass the HK$100 billion mark. But Wong said: "I am not so sure if that target can be met now. It takes time for business to pick up. "I am afraid we may have to be prepared for some difficult times in the months to come." Federation chief executive officer Simon Tam Hop-sing urged the government to introduce relief measures to help the sector ride out the hard times ahead. For example, he suggested waiving the licence fees or water tariffs for the sector. He also urged the government to allow the sector to import workers. The catering sector hires about 300,000 workers, according to the federation. And it is short of 30,000 workers. On reports that the minimum wage could rise from the present HK$30 an hour to HK$32.50 an hour, Tam said that such a rise would be a big blow to many small-scale establishments. Federation chairman Chan Shou-ming, also owner of the Palace Restaurant chain, said: "At first glance, the rise is not very big. Actually, we have already been paying over HK$60 an hour for night-shift workers. "But it will trigger a chain reaction and other trades in the sector would ask for a pay rise."