Restaurant business had suffered significantly due to restrictions placed to combat coronavirus disease.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Restaurant business had suffered significantly due to restrictions placed to combat coronavirus disease.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Unlock 4:Restaurants in Bengal open bars after five months

People walked into bars in Kolkata to have a drink with their friends after the restrictions were lifted.
By HT Correspondent | Edited by Abhinav Sahay | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON SEP 02, 2020 01:50 PM IST

Unlock 4 brought relief for the bibulous in West Bengal on Tuesday when restaurants opened their bars after five months, following an order from the state excise department. Managers at several popular bars and lounges said that although business was not overwhelming on the first night, many customers turned up with friends for a drink or two. Safety protocols were however in place with occupancy restricted to 50 per cent of the sitting capacity.

There are more than 600 bars in the districts and around 350 in Kolkata.

The state government allowed stand-alone liquor shops to reopen in May but imposed an additional 30% tax to raise money for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Since this led to a drop in retail sale and affected the state’s revenue, the government has planned to break up the tax into several slabs, excise officials said.

“No customer is allowed to enter without a mask and hand sanitizer is provided by the management. Customers can take off their masks after taking their seats,” said a staff at Moulin Rouge, one of the oldest restaurants at Park Street, the Mecca for foodies in the state capital.

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“There were more customers at Aqua, our poolside bar, than ‘Some Place Else’, the lounge. We have set up a giant screen at Aqua where popular movies are being screened,” said a spokesperson of the famous Park Hotel.

On June 8, when Unlock 1 was enforced, eateries and restaurants reopened after more than two months. But as Kolkata’s restaurants prepared to adapt to the new normal, unanswered questions loomed large over the business because of social distancing norms and people’s concern for safety.

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But what bothered restaurant owners the most was that restriction on serving alcohol in Unlock 1 would hit the business hardest. They said that around 50 per cent of revenue at most establishments came from the sale of beer and hard drinks.

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