Restaurants will no longer be able to hide behind norms that allow them to operate without fire safety clearances if they have a seating capacity of less than 50. The three municipal corporations in the city are working on tweaking norms to make the area available for seating, rather than the number of people accommodated, the primary consideration when giving out health trade licences.
Under the current norms, hotels that have a seating capacity of less than 50 do not have to get a fire safety clearance to get the mandatory health trade licence.
The civic body has the power to deny health trade licence to operate if a restaurant does not have fire clearances.
Restaurants hide behind seating capacity clause
The Delhi HC has in the past called Hauz Khas Village “a ticking time bomb, without essential emergency and fire services”. Sources said several bars and restaurants in the locality exploit a clause, which states that only eateries and bars with a seating capacity of over 50 need fire safety clearance and a fire exit. Most eateries and pubs claim to have fewer than 50 seats, but cram far more people. Once the rule is brought into effect, the civic body will declare seating capacity by calculating dining area. The exact area is yet to be decided, but officials said it will be more than 1.5 sqm for every seat. This means that if the dining area is 75 sqm, it will automatically fall in the bracket of a 50-seat restaurant, which requires mandatory fire clearance.
Instances of fire in Delhi hotels and restaurants, the most recent being that in Karol Bagh’s Hotel Arpit Palace where 17 people were killed, have brought the issue of fire safety clearances in the spotlight and have also brought corporations under pressure to introduce stricter norms.
A senior official of the South civic body said that several restaurants use the seating capacity norm to escape out of getting fire clearances. “Many eateries show that their seating capacity is below 50 to avoid procuring fire clearances. We are bringing a new rule whereby the restaurants’ seating capacities will be decided by the dining area in which they are operating,” the official said.
For instance, for every one seat, the required area could be one-and-half square metres, which means if the restaurant is operating in more than 75 square metres, it will be presumed that they have seating capacity above 50 and will require fire clearances.
The space required for the kitchen, office and store will not be included in the dining area. But guidelines will be laid out for the minimum space a restaurant’s kitchen should occupy, vis-a-vis their dining area. The South body is looking to introduce the rule in their house meeting post the Lok Sabha poll results, and are also in talks with the North and East bodies to get it passed.