After being shut for almost two months, restaurateurs in the national capital breathed a sigh of relief on Sunday and welcomed the Delhi government's decision to allow dine-in facilities to operate with 50 per cent occupancy.
Dine-in facilities were barred in Delhi since April 17, when the first weekend lockdown was imposed in a bid to curb the spread of covid-19 infection in the city.
The Delhi government had first imposed a weekly lockdown on April 19, which was then extended periodically till May 31, after which it started a phased reopening from June 1.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Sunday that restaurants with 50 per cent capacity, weekly markets and religious places will reopen in Delhi from June 14, saying the covid-19 situation has significantly come under control in the city.
He added, "We will watch the relaxation allowed to reopen markets and restaurants during the next week. If Covid cases do not increase, we will continue the relaxation, but if cases increase, we will have to bring back the restrictions.
Although most food and beverage establishments welcomed the decision by the chief minister, an uncertainty over the one-week trial also caused some concern.
Satyajit Dhingra of Impresario Handmade Restaurants said even though they continued delivering food through home deliveries and takeaways, it was dine-in that made a "sizeable chunk" of the revenue.
"Even though there are restrictions in terms of timings and capacity, we are happy to open our doors to our customers and make our way back slowly but surely. Since dine-in makes for almost 80 per cent of our revenue, we will be resuming operations across the city from tomorrow," Dhingra said.
Impresario Handmade Restaurants include Social, Smoke House Delhi, Boss Burger, Hung-Li and Lucknowee food outlets across the city.
From marking every alternate table as "reserved" and sanitising the whole premises, Neha Gupta of Beyond Designs Bistro in Sultanpur said reopening the eatery would be a step towards recovering "the losses sustained over the months".
"The F&B industry has gone through an extremely tough time from the beginning of the pandemic and opening it at whatever capacity is welcomed as patrons will start dining out soon and cash flow will start coming thereby helping us take a step towards reviving the loss sustained over the months," Gupta said.
Crowne Plaza in Okhla too kept the businesses running through takeaways and home delivery and it introduced "curated menus and meal combos" for in-house guests when the restaurants were not operational.
"We also received orders for packed breakfasts and lunches. However, we were anticipating the reopening of the restaurants and this announcement shall be the first step towards business recovery," said Pradipt Sinha, director of food and beverage at Crowne Plaza.
The DDMA's order said the restaurant owners "shall be responsible for strict adherence to the prescribed SOP and all instructions, guidelines" such as wearing of masks, maintaining social distancing and use of sanitiser.
The restaurants, however, will be allowed to reopen for one week on a trial basis from Monday till June 21.
During the trial week, if a restaurant is found violating Covid appropriate behaviour or if there is an increase in positivity rate and the number of COVID-19 infections, the establishment will be closed "without any loss of time".
"If in case it is found that the Covid-appropriate behaviour is not being followed in markets, market complexes, malls, restaurants and / or the positivity rate, number of COVID-19 positive persons, growth rate etc. start increasing in NCT of Delhi then markets, market complexes, malls, restaurants shall be closed forthwith without any loss of time so as to completely avoid and prevent any upsurge and likelihood of next wave in NCT of Delhi," the order said.
Calling it "unfair to punish an industry for the fault of a few", Anurag Katriar, president of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), questioned the decision as it may "cause uncertainty among restaurateurs".,
"It takes a lot of resources, money and effort to reopen a restaurant that has been closed for two months. But if you say we may shut it after a week, all restaurateurs will be uncertain about opening the business," Katriar said.
"Why single-out an entire industry for one person's fault. We are completely in agreement that if a restaurant is found guilty punish it, but not the industry," he added.
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