Restaurants, bars and banquet halls in Delhi are staring at crippling financial losses as curbs come into effect to control a spike in Covid cases. While restaurants and bars are allowed to open with 50% capacity with restricted timings, banquet halls have been closed down as per the Covid graded response action plan (GRAP).
Ranjan Puri, owner of the Grand Imperia banquet hall in Azadpur, said the government should have made some long term plans rather than shutting down banquet halls altogether. “In 2020, even when the government was not prepared, their solution was to close the banquet halls. Today they say they have a plan in place and are well prepared, still their solution is to shut down our business. If restaurants and bars can be asked to run with restricted numbers, why not us? If the Delhi Metro can run with 50% capacity, why not us? They could have just put a cap on the number of people allowed in banquet halls,” he said.
Kabir Suri, co-founder & director, Azure Hospitality, who is currently the President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) — an umbrella body of more than 20,000 eateries across India — said the order is a setback for the restaurant industry in Delhi, which had just started recovering in the last quarter of 2021 after a hiatus of 18 months.
“It’s a double whammy — on one hand, there is a restriction of 50 per cent on seating, on the other hand, the timings have been curtailed. If people are already following distancing norms, where is the need to shut early? Also, there is no clarity on deliveries — earlier, food delivery was considered part of essential services.”
Vidur Kanodia, founder of Padmanabhan restaurant at Janpath, who also runs two nightclubs at Aerocity — Cafe One8 and Club BW — said that if the restrictions continue for long, he has no option but to shut the restaurant. “At a place like Janpath with such high rentals, it is not possible to sustain with so many restrictions. The landlords may not understand. If this scenario continues for long, we will have to shut the restaurant since there is no way to cover the losses. Especially, at this time of the year, when we had just started recovering and were looking forward to the festive weekend, this just changes the sentiment.”
Even for the nightclubs, Kanodia says, “We had a good Christmas weekend, so now for the New Year’s Eve and beyond, if we have to close down by 10, it doesn’t work”.
Many feel the order singles out the restaurant and hospitality industry. Priyank Sukhija, founder of First Fiddle F&B Pvt Ltd, which owns restaurant brands like Lord Of The Drinks, Warehouse Cafe, Dragonfly and Lazeez Affaire, said, “It’s unfair to think that the virus gets more virulent after 11 pm. I understand that 50 percent of restaurant capacity is necessary but the night curfew is singling out the restaurant community.”
Riyaaz Amlani, CEO of Impresario Handmade Restaurants which runs enterprises like Social and Smoke House Delhi, said there could be a loss of about a few lakh rupees per restaurant. “Obviously it will impact us negatively. Hospitality has been looking forward to the festive season to help recoup losses suffered in the last two years. A lot of plans and preparations have been made at considerable cost to prepare for New Year’s. With the abrupt cancellation, most restaurants I have spoken to are feeling hopeless and in great despair,” he said.
Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of The Beer Café, however, said while they would brace for the losses, the well-being of the economy ultimately depends on the well-being of people and that has to be kept in mind.
“This was bound to happen. From what we know, this virus spreads quickly, so such measures were needed. We’ll have to brace for it. The only thing is that the night restrictions don’t make much sense. I suppose it has more to do with stopping people from congregating during the festive season. Sales will drop, but we will go into taking some kind of sensible control measures. Like last time, we lost a lot of perishables, we will try not to repeat it now,” he said.
Chef Harangad Singh, founder of cloud kitchens Parat and Me-awww, said, “After the curfew was announced, we are shutting the outlets at 10.30-10.45pm because of non availability of riders. It is affecting our business but it’s a law by the government so we are following it. Also, we are taking all the precautions to deliver the food safely to their homes.”
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