After Gurgaon, Delhi restaurants are now gearing up to serve alcohol at their outlets from September 9 as the Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal cleared the Delhi government’s proposal to allow restaurants, clubs and hotels to serve liquor on a trial basis till September 30. The update came as a breather for Delhi restaurants that were already open for dining in and also those that were waiting to reopen after lockdown. More restros are likely to reopen now following this announcement. Owners have been saying for sometime now that they earn a major portion of their revenue from liquor and in times when business is anyway bad, liquor serving in restros is imperative.
It is a positive step that will encourage more businesses to open up: Restaurant owners
The final nod from LG to allow the serving of alcohol at restaurants and hotels was long awaited. In August, Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia directed the Excise Department to issue permit to serve liquor in the restaurants and clubs by licences at the table and in the hotel rooms. But the Excise Department needed DDMA’s (Delhi Disaster Management Authority) approval (which came on Thursday afternoon) to permit restaurants to serve alcohol at tables. “This is a very welcome move and a move in the right direction to encourage businesses. We are hoping that this will save many businesses and livelihoods of so many people employed by restaurants. Other states like Punjab, and recently, Haryana, permitted serving of liquor at tables. There are some minor issues that our representatives are still sorting out with the Excise Department. Also, it is written in the order that this permission has been given on a trial basis from September 9-30, so we are hoping that there will be no change in this liquor serving rule after September 30,” says Anurag Katriar, president, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI).
Restaurateur Amit Bagga, owner of Daryaganj, says that this order has come as a big relief to several bartenders in the city. “Though we will be serving liquor at tables, bartenders and other bar staff will be back at work now,” says Bagga.
SOPs to be strictly followed: Hygiene and social distancing will be top priority
Restaurateurs have been provided with guidelines and SOPs to be followed, with respect to serving of alcohol at tables. Restros point out that most of these guidelines are already being followed by restaurants that opened earlier for dining in. Restaurants will be running at 50% occupancy and no seating (or service) at the bar will be allowed. “This is big, happy news for us and we would maintain all social distancing norms and other SOPs. Alcohol adds to the guests’ experience and we aim to provide the best and safe experience,” says Saurabh Khanijo, owner of Kylin Experience. “Business has been on a steady rise, and now, we want more people to feel comfortable about coming out for a dining experience knowing that it will be safe and hygienic. Service of liquor will be similar to the food service we have been providing at the tables since we reopened after lockdown,” adds Navneet Kalra, owner of Town Hall, Khan Chacha, Public Affair and Mr Choy in Khan Market.
‘We have been getting 15-20 calls per day to check if we are serving alcohol’
From 20% business (with 50% occupancy) in the first week of reopening in June to doing 35-40% business now, there has been a steady growth in numbers for restaurants. From the coming week, as sale of liquor will begin, they are expecting that not just the footfall will go up, but also the per person spending on each order. “If everything goes well then by December, we should be able to reach a breakeven point, which won’t be bad at all given that the businesses was shut for months,” says Saurabh.
Restaurateur Dinesh Arora, who had put on hold the opening of his restro bars, Unplugged Courtyard in Delhi and Gurgaon, till the time the liquor service was permitted, will now be opening both outlets on September 6. “We have been getting 15-20 queries each day about when we are opening and if we will be serving liquor. So we are expecting a very good footfall in the first week of reopening itself,” says Arora.
Restaurateur Priyank Sukhija is also opening all his outlets in Delhi in the coming week. “Till now, some people were avoiding going out as they would think that they would better order food and drink at home. People come to restaurants for experiences and we are hoping that they would be happy to come now,” he says.