New Year’s Eve is all about letting one’s hair down, right? You pop the bubbly to go all out in welcoming the next 12 months — it’s the done thing, after all.
Think again. Celebration plans could be a headache if Connaught Place is your choice of venue. To raise a toast, you would first have to tackle the decade-old, total restriction on all vehicular movement in and around the inner, middle and outer circles of CP after 7.30 pm on December 31.
The killjoy for revellers, of course, translates into obvious business setbacks for restaurants and bars of the landmark marketplace.
Qamar Ahmed, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic), underlines the need for such a decision: “New Year’s eve is a time when people take to the streets in hordes to celebrate. CP has always been a particularly favourite spot for most people to roam around. It becomes extremely difficult for the police to manage the traffic mayhem that follows. The restriction is also aimed at preventing drunken driving and road rage on an evening when the area is particularly crowded. The danger of both these hazards rise significantly on New Year’s Eve.”
The New Delhi Traders Association (NDTA) sees logic in Ahmed’s concern, but members are not exactly pleased with the loss of revenues on their big night of business. “Restaurants and bars in and around CP are directly hit,” says Atul Bhargav, president, NDTA. “We are trying to reach an agreement with the traffic police, but we still haven’t been able to figure out an alternative plan that would, at the same time, deal with the traffic problem and ensure we don’t lose out on business.”
A senior public relations officer at New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) feels that the blanket ban on traffic only in CP is unfair to the traders in the area. “If traffic is being blocked in CP, why should other areas of the city that face a similar problem on December 31 be exempt from the rule?” he asks. “Either create other venues where revellers can celebrate — thereby preventing congestion at CP — or have a uniform law for all marketplaces in Delhi.”
In fact, the scene was so bad at CP last year, some popular joints were forced to shut shop. “Last New Year’s Eve we had to down the shutters after lunch,” says Atul Kapur, partner, QBA restaurant and bar, in CP’s middle circle. “It was sad, because for a December 31 evening we easily have at least 400 patrons calling in to make reservations. But then, our clients are not always willing to park their cars in one corner and walk a great distance. We ended up missing out on regaling our patrons with an entire package of entertainment.” In other words, a golden opportunity to mint money was lost.
Says Akassh Kalra of the United Coffee House, in the inner circle: “It’s time to revise the restriction. Traffic authorities should come up with a solution that suits everyone.”