Popular joints in Khan Market forced to shut shop in face of mounting losses due to lockdown
As the capital has started opening up gradually after three months of a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), several popular shops, restaurants and book stores have been forced to shut as a result of the losses incurred due to the prolonged closure.
Last week, three stores in south Delhi’s upscale Khan Market decided to close down or curtail operations, being unable to bear the high rents, salaries of employees and the estimates of future operations. The stores included a two-decade old cafe and bookstore, Full Circle and Cafe Turtle, an Asian restaurant, Side Wok and another barbeque restaurant, Smokeys BBQ and Grill.
Priyanka Malhotra, the owner of Full Circle and Cafe Turtle, said it was after several rounds of negotiations with the Khan Market Traders’ Association and the National Restaurant Association of India that they decided to pull down the shutters.
The concept of this bookstore-cum-cafe which started business in Khan Market in 1998, from shop number 5 and later moved to shop number 23, was to allow avid readers a place to spend their afternoons and evenings flipping pages while sipping their cuppas and slicing into their famous date and carrot cakes.
“It surely was not an easy decision. It was a legacy and you don’t give that up till things really get difficult. There were several questions that we needed to answer, going ahead how do we maintain social distancing in a bookstore that has a cafe, how do we manage the rent when we were not making a single penny ourselves and most importantly how do we ensure that our staff and customers remain safe,” Malhotra said.
She, however, clarified that the bookstore has two more branches in Greater Kailash-1 N-Block and Nizamuddin East, which will continue to cater to the bibliophiles in the city.
Along with this 22-year-old bookstore and cafe, two other popular food joints have made an exit from Khan Market. Sidewok, an Asian cuisine restaurant, has been running from the market for nearly 16 years while it has been around six years since Smokeys BBQ and Grill opened its outlet here.
Both these restaurants also decided to shut down operations because of high rents and the added financial liabilities. Sidewok initially had two branches in the same market, one in shop number 45 and another in number 19. It eventually closed off its operations from shop 45 and moved to shop number 19. Similarly, Smokeys was located in shop number 51.
While Sidewok refused to respond to e-mail queries and the questionnaire sent to Smokeys remained unanswered.
Anshu Tondon, president of the Khan Market Traders’ Association, said that they tried to negotiate between the owners of the restaurants and the landlords but it was a tricky situation that ended in the exit.
“It was truly heartbreaking. It has understandably become difficult for businesses to continue operations in the new scenario. Because many of these restaurants serve dishes that require dining in and cannot be delivered through a takeaway service, it was complete rout for them. Many landlords here are senior citizens and they depend on what they get as rents from here, so they would not agree to negotiate much,” Tondon said.
Without giving out more names Tondon said that there were more establishments that were negotiating the terms of rent with their landlords.
In Connaught Place too, businesses are facing difficulties.
Atul Bhargava, president of New Delhi Traders’ Association (NDTA), said even though the old timers are managing, it is the newer shops that are the worst affected. How many restaurants and shops are forced to shut shops will be clearer once all restaurants open on Monday, he said.
“Restaurants that served 100 people can only seat 20-25 people now. The business has taken a major hit and the next three to four months are going to be tough for the business community. The government must announce some financial package to help businesses stay afloat,” he said.