THE ‘HAWAI Adda’ — a discarded aircraft parked on the main Ludhiana-Ferozepur National Highway (adjoining Verka Milk Plant) turned into a fine-dining restaurant nearly four years ago — has become an icon of sorts and synonymous to the identity of Ludhiana.
The restaurant also made Ludhiana probably the only city in the country to have a 65-seater fine-dine facility inside a discarded Airbus A320, which grabs the eyeballs of every person who passes through the Ferozepur road, the lifeline of the city. People from other states started visiting Ludhiana just to have a meal here after photographs of the restaurant, traveled far and wide via social media after its inauguration.
But in the times of coronavirus, the airplane stands amid overgrown shrubs with its doors locked. Since the lockdown started in March, the ‘flight’ from ‘Hawai Adda’ hit rough weather and stopped operations. Even after the Punjab government issued orders allowing home delivery, the restaurant did not resume operations.
On Tuesday, nearly three months after lockdown was imposed, fresh orders from the additional chief secretary as part of Unlock 1.0, have allowed restaurants to reopen. The orders said, “Restaurants are allowed dine-in facility till 8 pm with 50 per cent occupancy or 50 guests, whichever is less”.
But the owners of this unique project, who had started it after taking land on lease from the government’s Punjab Milk Producers Federation & Cooperative Society (MILKFED) which owns dairy brand ‘Verka’, aren’t sure when flight from ‘Hawai Adda’ will take-off again.
MILKFED and the restaurant owners are also engaged in a legal tussle after a three-year lease ended, but the matter is sub-judice. While the court has allowed restaurant operations to go on, the iconic restaurant is lying shut.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Delhi-based Jaswinder Singh, co-owner of the project, said they shut down operations due to lockdown. “We did not resume home delivery even after the government allowed it because there wouldn’t have been many orders. Expenditure would have exceeded earnings and we would have incurred losses. Also our staff had moved back to their native villages. We are planning when to resume operations now. Staff has to be called back and everything has to be planned again. But we are hopeful of resuming the restaurant very soon.”
Asked about the legal tussle going on with MILKFED, Prince Makkar, also co-owner, said, “They had leased out their land for Rs 1.20 lakh per month for three years to us. After the lease ended, they shot it up to Rs 5 lakh a month. But the court has allowed us to run the restaurant and matter is now sub-judice in Punjab and Haryana High Court. We had shut the restaurant due to lockdown, not due to the court case. We will do a market survey for some days to assess the response of customers before starting it again.”
Meanwhile, Dharminder Singh Grewal, area officer marketing, Ludhiana Verka Milk Plant, said that after the three-year lease ended, they had asked owners to enter a new agreement at new lease rates, but they did not agree. “Earlier we had given them land on lease for Rs 1.20 lakh a month but after 3 years, it had to be revised. Now, neither are they giving us monthly lease amounts, nor vacating the land. But the court has allowed them to run the restaurant and it is up to them when they reopen it.”
Work on the restaurant had started in June 2015. The scrap airplane had landed in the city in June when MILKFED announced that it will take city residents on a ‘culinary flight’ with a fine dining restaurant inside it. It was subsequently inaugurated in 2016 and before that too, the project had entered a controversy after Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC) was in a fix over issuing fire safety no-objection certificate (NOC) for a restaurant inside an airplane. Eventually, permissions were granted.
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