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A day after the Delhi High Court ordered the closure of the Saravana Bhavan outlet in Outer Circle of Connaught Place due to expiry of the lease,the management of the popular South Indian food chain alleged that the landlord had demanded an exorbitant rent,much more than the current rate in the area.
The restaurant next door,Delhi Express,is paying only Rs 200 per square metre,but our landowners demanded more than Rs 400 per square metre as rent. They went to court because we refused to comply with the exorbitant demand, A Thalapathi,branch manager of the outlet,told Newsline.
On Tuesday,Justice S N Dhingra of the Delhi High Court directed the restaurant to hand over the property,P-15,Outer Circle,Connaught Place,to its owner Subhash Chander Gupta. The lease had been signed in December 2004 between the parties for five years,which expired in September 30,2008. The popular vegetarian chain has two outlets in Connaught place: at Janpath and in Outer Circle.
The owner has deliberately created the problem because the Airport Line of the Metro will pass nearby and there is an increase expected in property prices. They want us to vacate the property, alleged Thalapathi.
The initial rent agreement,he said,was Rs 90 per sq m that was subsequently increased to Rs. 150. Now they want more than double of that, he added.
The South Indian food chain started with a single restaurant in Chennai in 1981. Now,the chain has 47 outlets in seven countries,including Canada,USA,Muscat and the UAE.
Sprawled over two floors,the Outer Circle outlet also sells South Indian sweets,snacks and different varieties of banana chips. An ice-cream counter and juice stall greet the customer near the entrance. However,it is the Janpath branch,the larger of the two outlets in Connaught Place that houses a large kitchen,where food is prepared for both the joints. Except for simple items such as idlis,dosas and chutneys,the food is cooked every half an hour.
The chief cook works at the larger branch due to space constraints here, the manager said. Nearly 2,000 customers visit each outlet daily,he added. The outlets open at 8 am and remain open till 11 pm,seven days a week.
Famous for its authentic filter coffee,Saravana Bhavan is a favourite with South Indian cuisine lovers in the city. There is no dearth of good places but this is the best South Indian restaurant in Delhi, said Willy Mathews,62. Resident of Tagore Garden in West Delhi,he says that family shopping trips to CP almost always end at the outlet. We come here at least once in two months, his son Manish added.