Dining at restros in COVID times: Delhi restaurateurs urge authorities to allow serving of liquor at tables

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Urging the authorities to permit the sale of liquor at Delhi restaurants, members from National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Delhi Restaurant & Club Association (DRCA) have written letters to the excise department. Restaurateurs say that as restaurants reopen after the lockdown, they majorly depend on the sale of liquor for their revenue. But since bars are still not allowed to be operational, they cannot serve liquor at their outlets.

In the letter addressed to the Commissioner, Department of Excise, Entertainment & Luxury Tax, Delhi, NRAI stated that “while restaurant dine-in has been permitted from June 8 onwards, the industry is not being permitted for liquor service along with dine-in. This is due to an error in the interpretation of the generic term ‘Bars’ as mentioned in the unlock guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The ministry’s guidelines around distinction of ‘bars’ has created the present unfounded confusion of including dine-in liquor service in restaurants under the prohibited list.”

It is added in the letter that “neighbouring states like Punjab and Rajasthan have delinked liquor service on table from the generic term ‘bars’ as mentioned in the MHA guidelines. Accordingly, these states have permitted liquor service on table along with dine-in.” The letter goes on to request that similar steps be followed in Delhi, adding, “Some additional guidelines for the above may be included as mentioned: Bar counters to remain closed for service, liquor service be allowed only along with dine-in at the table, SOPs issued for dine-in to be followed.”

Before sending the letter, members from NRAI also met Delhi excise commissioner Ravi Dhawan to talk about the permission for serving liquor on tables at Delhi restaurants. “We got a positive response from him and he asked us to send a formal letter, which we did. We are hoping that we will soon be able to bring this issue up with Delhi chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal),” says restaurateur Priyank Sukhija.

Restaurateur Dinesh Arora, president, DRCA, says that they wrote the letter to the Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and are also waiting to have a meeting with him. “In the letter, we have requested that a clarification may be issued to the effect that restaurants having liquor licences may be allowed to serve liquor on tables (akin to the clarifications/ policy issued by Rajasthan and Punjab governments). Service on tables shall also ensure that adequate social distancing is maintained between patrons as well as the staff. We are planning to have a meeting with him soon and we are hoping that something would be done about this as this is only hope for recovery for so many restaurants,” says Arora.

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