Delhi: Bars, restaurants prepare to serve liquor, fix rules for patrons
After a five-month ban as part of the restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, bars, restaurants, hotels, and clubs in Delhi will start serving liquor to dine-in customers from Wednesday. Wary that the permission to serve alcoholic beverages has been granted only on a trial basis till September 30, hotels, bars and restaurants put in place strict Covid-19 protocols, ranging from allowing only 4-5 members in a group to discontinuing live band performances.
Restro-bars remained shut in Delhi because serving liquor was not permitted in the city. On September 3, the Delhi disaster management authority (DDMA) headed by lieutenant governor Anil Baijal approved the sale of alcoholic beverages to dine-in customers from September 9.
Restaurateur Dinesh Arora kept his ‘Unplugged Courtyard’ outlets in Delhi and Gurugram shut despite the Unlock 3 guidelines issued on July 29, allowing dine-in services. “The concepts of my restaurants are totally liquor-based. So, opening just to serve food was not a feasible idea for us. Thankfully, we are opening all our outlets in full swing and with all precautions from Wednesday,” said Arora.
Arora, who is also the president of Delhi restaurants and club association, said for the first 10 days all owners will be physically present at their key outlets to ensure that safety protocols are followed. “We do not want to take any risk since it is a trial phase and defaulting on any rule could result in sealing of the entire outlet. So, almost all restaurant and bar owners in Delhi will themselves be present during working hours. We do not want a repeat of a Murthal here in Delhi,” he said.
At least 100 persons, including 84 employees of a restaurant in Murthal, Haryana tested Covid-19. Government authorities said the hotel management had flouted social distancing norms.
The Delhi government’s excise department said strict action would be taken against the owner and manager of the said facility if they violate rules. “Besides, it will also lead to sealing of the premises and cancellation of the excise licence,” an official said.
Starting Wednesday, excise officials will conduct surprise checks at restaurants, bars, hotels and clubs.
“Customers are allowed only up to 50% of the seating capacity to ensure adherence to social distancing norms. No standing customer is to be served. Only asymptomatic guests and staff are allowed. For entry, wearing masks, thermal screening and hand sanitisation is mandatory,” said a senior excise official on condition of anonymity.
Restaurateur Priyank Sukhija, owner of brands such as Tamasha, Lord of the Drinks, Warehouse Café and Teddy Boy said he is doing away with all seating arrangements along the bar counter for now. “Live performances will also not happen for a while since usually people tend to stand up and dance. The number of guests will also be limited to maximum 4-5 per table with adequate distancing in place. My outlets in Bengaluru and Kolkata have already seen a recovery of almost 60% of the demand during pre-Covid times in over a week’s time. I hope, we will break-even in Delhi in a month or so,” said Sukhija.
The Park said they are keeping their bar counters open and have already started taking bookings for parties, including for their pool-side facility. “.. Our poolside facility is available, but using the pool is not allowed. Parties are already getting booked for this month as well as the upcoming months. Our teams are well prepared... Safety and well-being of our guests and associates is of utmost importance to us. All guests are required to wear a face mask and undergo mandatory thermal screening,” said Rohit Arora, area general manager, THE Park New Delhi.
The hotel has also installed AV (audio-visual) media and posters at various points in the hotel about the preventive measures to be followed. “Formation of queues is prohibited and strict social distancing measures are taken,” the hotel said in a statement.
At clubs like the India International Centre (IIC), the number of tables and chairs has been reduced to half in the bar. Kanwal Wali, secretary of IIC, said Arogya Setu app will be mandatory for all guests besides the usual Covid-19 protocols.