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Delhi’s restaurant industry hit by fresh curbs: ‘Unable to get e-passes, food delivery affected’

On Friday, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) tagged the Chief Minister’s Office in a tweet and sought help in resolving the e-pass problem for the food and beverage industry.

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi |
January 9, 2022 8:07:17 pm
Under the weekend curfew declared last week, dine-in is not permitted but restaurants can make food deliveries and employees have to avail e-passes.(Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

The restaurant industry is once again facing hardships with restrictions being imposed in the national capital due to a sharp spike in Covid cases fuelled by the omicron variant. Several owners pointed to e-passes acting as a hurdle in food delivery.

On Friday, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) tagged the Chief Minister’s Office in a tweet and sought help in resolving the e-pass problem for the food and beverage industry. “We aren’t getting them, leading to severe harassment. We will be compelled to shut down delivery as well if this isn’t resolved right away.”

CM Arvind Kejriwal responded, saying to send him their contact details (to get the issue resolved.)

While the Delhi Disaster Management Authority issued the ‘yellow’ alert under the Covid Graded Response Plan on December 29, under which restaurants could operate at 50% capacity between 8 am and 10 pm, a weekend curfew was declared last week as cases continued to surge. Under this, dine-in is not permitted, but restaurants can make food deliveries and employees have to avail e-passes.

Anurag Katriar, trustee and founder of Indigo Hospitality, said the restaurant industry is over regulated, causing further loss to business. “If curfew is imposed, people would need food delivered at home. For that to happen, staff should be able to step out. Restaurants are already in crisis and there is no need to add extra burden on them to deal with bureaucratic hassles,” he said.

Secretary general of the association, Prakul Kumar, pointed out that the industry has been among the biggest hit due to Covid, with more than 25% of eateries shutting shop since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. “The industry used to employ more than seven million people; now 25 lakh jobs have been lost,” he said.

Kumar also said questioned why restaurants have restrictions, when buses and Metro are running at 100% capacity: “The food industry is already identified as an essential service, permitted during curfews. But restaurant employees have been facing problem in getting e-passes… Majority of applications have been rejected. We want that the documents needed to get an e-pass made, like declaration from the restaurants regarding the employee ID card, be allowed instead.”

Facing crippling losses after the first and the second wave in 2020 and 2021, especially during the lockdown, 50% of more than 2,700 licensed eateries in Delhi did not renew their health trade licence for months. Senior MCD officials had said many of them had shut shop as they couldn’t afford to pay rent and several others switched to home delivery to keep their businesses running.

“Jan aur jahan dono saath me leke kaise chale koi sochta nahi hai. (They don’t think about how to take life and business together),” said Katiyar.

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