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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Delhi: Already limping, restaurant industry fears night curfew could mean end of the road

For fine-dining restaurants that have their peak hours between 7 pm and 11 pm, a night curfew from 10 pm onwards would mean little to no footfall.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
April 7, 2021 2:30:47 am
Night curfew being imposed in CP. (Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

Delhi’s restaurants and clubs are yet again filled with trepidation since the announcement of a night curfew in the city. While some said the move is still better than a complete lockdown, most said the economic toll it takes on them would prove disastrous.

For fine-dining restaurants that have their peak hours between 7 pm and 11 pm, a night curfew from 10 pm onwards would mean little to no footfall. M S Rana, general manager of the Imperial Spice in Connaught Place, said, “Our dining hours are from 8-11 pm. Since visitors and staff have to get back home, it will be safe to shut the place at 9 pm, which means we have only one hour of dining. We expect a deficit of 80 per cent since most of our business is at night and few people come out for lunch.” He said the restaurant had reopened in September and the footfall was low for a few months before they started seeing a recovery. February saw the footfall reach 50-60 per cent of its pre-Covid numbers.

Zen Restaurant in Connaught Place, which runs from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm, had similar apprehensions. Ashok Thakur, the restaurant manager, said, “We only allow 50 per cent of the usual numbers so we can maintain social distancing… We might have to shut the restaurant for some time as there will be no profit at all.” He said that the restaurant had barely started recovering the losses incurred during the lockdown since February.

Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants, which includes brands like Farzi Cafe, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and Pa Pa Ya, said that this might be the end of the road for many restaurants: “The pandemic has affected the entire world and most industries have been hit hard. Especially the already beleaguered food and beverage industry. The past year has been a very difficult one for all. The new measures in place are understandably the need of the hour as cases are going up, but they will have a tremendous impact on the survivability of the industry as a whole. Takeaway and delivery alone cannot sustain a restaurant enterprise. And night curfews take away the most major chunk of the business for a restaurant. Already the restaurants were operating at 50 per cent capacity and now with the measures in place, it is definitely going to affect business in a huge way.” The concerns were echoed by clubs and bars. Saurabh Suman, manager of Pebble Street in New Friends Colony, said, “We have been following all Covid norms from entry to the table. But even then, footfall has been very low. In the last two-three days, we have hardly had any customers.” He said these losses will only be exacerbated by the night curfew as they plan to vacate the restaurant by 9. Dhaba owners too said they will face losses as they depend on passing cars at night for a huge chunk of their business. Rakesh Khanna, owner of Vaishno Dhaba in Shankar Road at Old Rajinder Nagar, said that they already have half the business as compared to pre-Covid times, and the new rules would mean they will have to shut by 9 pm.

Anurag Katriar, president of the National Restaurant Association of India, said, “Reduced hours will cause a lot of hardship to an industry which is anyway suffering. It will impact lives and livelihood at a time when we were just about clawing back to some kind of normalcy.” He added there were some promising signs in recent months. “Now, we will be severely impacted, as people don’t go out to eat early, especially during summers.”

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