Covid-19 curbs: Restaurants, pubs stare at long, gloomy nights
Synopsis–Nightclub and bar owners said the night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am till April 30, announced by the Delhi government, left them with little option but to shut down. In Maharashtra, most restaurants are likely to stay shut as deliveries alone may not salvage the cost of operations, said executives.
Restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs are facing an existential crisis which could lead to widespread closures following the fresh curbs in place in Maharashtra and the imposition of a night curfew in Delhi from Tuesday, said industry executives.
Nightclub and bar owners said the night curfew from 10 pm to 5 am till April 30, announced by the Delhi government, left them with little option but to shut down.
The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) said 90% of the restaurants in Maharashtra will shut down as a result of the new ‘Break the chain’ guidelines, issued on Sunday, under which restaurants are allowed to operate only takeaway and home-delivery services till the end of this month.
“Clubs will totally shut down in Delhi as the first few guests enter around 11 or 11:30 pm,” said Akshay Anand, owner of Toy Room at Aloft Hotel in Delhi’s Aerocity and Ophelia at The Ashok.
“Opening the club only till 10 pm is not viable at all. This is a major blow for nightclubs. Restaurants will get impacted too as people work during the day and there is no culture of heading to restaurants for dinner during the evening,” he said.
In Maharashtra, most restaurants are likely to stay shut as deliveries alone may not salvage the cost of operations, said executives.
“Starting Tuesday, we won’t open any of our 11 restaurants in Maharashtra as dine-in is not allowed,” said Zorawar Kalra, managing director of Massive Restaurants which runs brands such as Farzi Cafe, Made in Punjab, Swan and Bo Tai Switch in Shangrila’s Eros Hotel in the national capital.
“New curbs in Delhi will take away the dinner business as fear psychosis will increase which discourages people from stepping out. Night curfew will have a big impact in Delhi,” he said.
‘We are Not Set up for Deliveries’
While acknowledging the gravity of the surge in Covid-19 cases which prompted the Maharashtra and Delhi governments to impose new restrictions, Kalra said, “Some of these policies are warranted because cases are going up. But the problem is, our industry is beleaguered and was the hardest hit last year. These curbs could mean the end of the road for more restaurants,” he said.
Riyaaz Amlani, chief executive of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality, which runs restaurant brands including Social, Saltwater Café, Slink & Bardot and Smokehouse Deli, said most of his 27 outlets in Maharashtra will stay shut.
“We might open some to support our staff and we want to keep as many jobs as possible but we are in a very difficult situation. Deliveries don’t make any money for restaurants. We are not set up for deliveries. We are in large, high street locations. You save more money by staying shut. If you are open, it means more electricity bills and other operational costs,” he said.
Rohit Aggarwal, director of Lite Bite Foods, said the hospitality industry had just started to make some progress and that the night curfew in the two major cities will halt those efforts.
A spokesperson for a luxury hotel chain said some fine dining restaurants in its hotels in Maharashtra may close down too as non-resident guests, who constitute a significant chunk of the food and beverages business, are not allowed in restaurants inside hotels. In Maharashtra, restaurants and bars inside hotels are allowed to operate only for in-house guests.
Anurag Katriar, CEO of deGustibus Hospitality, which runs Indigo Deli and other brands, said he is not sure if his outlets will stay open in Maharashtra from Wednesday. “The cloud kitchens will continue to operate but most of our restaurant members feel opening outlets is not sustainable,” he said.
HRAWI president Sherry Bhatia said even after one year, the hospitality industry has not received any relief from the government. “Of the approximately 30 lakh employees engaged in the industry directly in Maharashtra, 40% have faced job losses and the figures are only increasing. Many employees, who have just returned from their homes, will have to be compensated to ensure that their families are not made to suffer all over again. There is no way that the industry can survive another lockdown,” he said.
Deepak Jain, founder of MayFair Consultants, which specializes in hotel, restaurant and real estate consulting said the latest move to impose a night curfew in Delhi came without consulting the industry. “The government should be supportive by allowing them to run at a slightly more reduced capacity if needed. With this, at least they will be able to manage some of their financial stress. Why are they expected to pay such heavy taxes when the hours of operations are limited,” he said.
Meanwhile, some restaurant chains are doing their bit to help speed up the government’s vaccination programme.
Aggarwal of Lite Bite Foods said encouraging people to get vaccinated is the need of the hour and that his chain has introduced a 10% discount for those who have taken their first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 20% for those who have taken the second shot, at all outlets of its Punjab Grill and YouMee restaurants across India. “Rather than offering discounts on food apps, this will attract more people to take the jab and visit our restaurants,” he said.
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