Covid-19 shadow over big, fat weddings in Delhi
With the wedding season just round the corner, banquet and tent house owners are demanding that the Centre and the Delhi government relax the number of guests at a wedding function—currently only 50 people are allowed—to 50% of the the banquet hall’s capacity.
They want the restriction on the number of guests be waived off in the next Unlock guidelines, which are likely to be announced soon.
While the Centre had allowed a gathering of 100 people from September 20 onwards in its Unlock 4 guidelines, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) recently allowed only 50 people in wedding gatherings. The decision was made due to a rise in the number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases, said an official.
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Banquet owners say that this has adversely impacted their business. While the number of bookings for the upcoming wedding season is far less as compared to last year, some banquet halls have started getting cancellation requests.
Puneesh Khanna, 45, director of Lavnaya Motel, a banquet facility in north Delhi’s Alipur, resumed work earlier this month after five months of closure because of restrictions imposed to halt the spread of Covid-19.
Khanna said, “We have been banking on the upcoming season to stay afloat. But the order has led to confusion among people. Those who had booked the hall thinking that 100 people will be allowed have started cancelling the event. In the past week, 10-15% bookings have been cancelled.”
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With over 50 motels and farmhouses along GT Karnal Road, Alipur is one of Delhi’s preferred destinations for big, fat, fancy weddings. Popular wedding venues are also located in Wazirpur, Peeragarhi, Rohini, Punjabi Bagh, Chattarpur, Mehrauli, etc, that can accommodate anywhere between 1,000 and 1,500 guests.
Like Khanna, banquet and tent houses owners in Delhi now are pinning their hopes on the wedding season in November and December after facing huge losses due to the lockdown and Covid restrictions.
Banquet and tent house owners ask why they are not being allowed when gyms, restaurants and Delhi Metro have been permitted to operate on 50% capacity. Sandeep Madan, owner of The Heritage Grand at Britannia Chowk in north Delhi, said, “Metro has started at 50% capacity. The government has allowed gyms and restaurants to operate. Then why not us? There are over 10 lakh families associated with our business.”
Madan said that banquet owners as well as those who are planning weddings are in a dilemma. “The government should give some clarity of what they plan to do. We can restart our businesses on a week’s notice. People book banquet halls months in advance,” said Madan, who is the senior vice president of the Community Welfare Banquet Association.
While uncertainty looms large, some banquets have started taking bookings based on fixed charge for the hall and a gathering of 100-250 people. Ramesh Dang, president of the Delhi Banquet Federation, said, “We are waiting for the next set of guidelines. We will take up the matter with the Centre, Delhi government and the Lieutenant governor of Delhi and request them to allow gathering up to 50% of the capacity. Currently, we are taking minimum bookings for the venue. As for the number of guests, we are telling the clients that it will depend on the government’s order.”
A majority of banquets — there are around 500 in Delhi — have 2-3 halls with a capacity of 350-500 guests each.
Virender Singh, who runs a construction material firm in Mehrauli and lives in Aya Nagar, said his family had cancelled his 22-year-old niece’s wedding scheduled for April 26. The family had then planned to call 1,000-odd people. The event was postponed to November 29. The family hired a tent house to set up a venue in a park. But now that plan also stands cancelled.
“There is no clarity on how many guests will be allowed. We have a big family. If we count just our close relatives, we have at least 80-90 people whom we have to call. There is no clarity on whether the government will increase the number of guests. For us, it is a big event. We don’t want to spoil it. We have cancelled the wedding. We will plan it once things are normal,” said Singh.
While banquet owners have started bookings, tent house owners are still out of business. A majority of tents are erected for big weddings and other events mostly held in parks. But according to lockdown norms, commercial activities in parks are prohibited.
“Customers who want big weddings opt for tent houses. But due to the restriction on the number of guests, there is no demand for us. People are opting for banquets. The government should think about us also,” said Nitin Gulati, owner of Gulati tents, who largely operates in west and north Delhi.
Gulati also said that there was a shortage of manpower since labourers engaged with them had gone home and were yet to return. Even banquet halls are working with limited staff with only one guard deployed to screen guests at the limited number of functions which are being organised these days.
A large number of tent houses have taken godowns on hire to store items. Pankaj Shokeen, president of the Delhi Tent Federation, said, “There are close to 5,700 tent house owners in Delhi. As these are temporary structures, people have taken big godowns in villages to store goods. Now owners have asked them to vacate as they are unable to pay rent,” Shokeen said.