Dining out in corona times: Delhi restaurants to start serving liquor soon?

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Just days after the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Delhi Restaurant & Club Association (DRCA) wrote a letter to the Delhi excise department to allow them to serve liquor at tables in restaurants, the Delhi government has decided to look into the matter. In an order dated August 20, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has directed the excise department to follow up on the matter.

The order states, “Bars will remain closed under the provisions of unlock guidelines of the ministry of home affairs. However, several state governments, including Assam, Punjab, Rajasthan, etc. have permitted service of liquor by licence holders under the excise rules at the table in restaurants and clubs and in hotel rooms. Considering the revenue implications, the excise department to issue necessary permission for service of liquor in the restaurant and clubs by licensees at the table and in the hotel rooms.”

While the final order on when restaurants can start serving liquor is awaited, restaurateurs see this as a big, positive step that might help them gain footing post lockdown. Most restro owners had delayed reopening their outlets stating that “we cannot earn any revenue without the sale of liquor. It will be impossible to run a restaurant while bearing high operational costs and no revenue.”

Anurag Katriar, president, NRAI, applauded the move and tweeted, “If liquor can be sold at the vends, so can it be in a restaurant, which follows strict norms of social distancing and hygiene. Very welcome move by the Govt of Delhi.” Restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani also posted, “This is vital for the survival of restaurants and restaurant workers! If social distancing is maintained, why can’t a customer have a glass of wine with her pasta? Please allow immediately. Punjab and Haryana already have.”

Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs brands such as Social and Smoke House Deli, says, “As long as bars are not allowed to operate and people are drinking at the table while maintaining social distancing, we don’t see an issue in the government granting liquor permissions. It will give restaurants and bars some much-needed revenue in these trying times. Without alcohol and with limited operating hours, we are looking at generating only 30-35% of revenue vis-a-vis pre-COVID numbers. This will make running restaurants more expensive than remaining shut.”

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