NEW DELHI: Dinner service starting after 9pm gave
in Delhi-NCR almost 70% of their summer revenues.
But with night restrictions in force from 10pm to 5am, most dine-in outlets have been reduced to being delivery and takeaway places, with small or no dinner sales.
Most restaurants have stopped accepting post-8pm dinner reservations at 8pm and delivery orders by 8.30pm to ensure employees reach home before 10pm.
Restaurants are complaining of harassment of staff and raids on premises, but the cops say their hands are tied because they need to implement the night curbs.
“Many people we stop at pickets claim to be returning home after dinner. We tell them they can’t violate the regulations just because they stay close by,” said an officer in south Delhi.
“The pubs, restaurants and bars that we booked weren’t following social distancing norms. It’s humanly impossible to check all places and bars, but wherever we see a crowd, we do take action.”
As for delivery executives, RP Meena, DCP (South-East), said, “The guidelines pertaining to delivery boys are clear that they must have an e-pass to do their work. We don’t stop anyone who has a pass. But moving around without a pass is a violation of the curfew rules.”
Kabir Suri, vice-president,
National Restaurant Association of India
, and co-founder, Azure Hospitality, said the anti-Covid restrictions were a ‘body blow’ to the restaurant industry that had barely begun a revival after the lockdown.
Food delivery need to be declared a permitted activity during curfew hours, he said, adding that there is a problem getting curfew passes for delivery staff.
Many others similarly complained about the Civil Defence Volunteers also turning up on their premises or in the markets threatening to issue challans, creating panic among staff and diners.
They disclosed that outlets are avoiding visible branding on bikes or clothes because they are leading to their being harassed by police.
Restaurant bodies have written to the CMs of Delhi and Haryana and the local police to clarify the regulation on food delivery.
Delhi Police maintained that delivery executives can apply for passes online.
“There are hundreds of people who apply for passes. Those in the permitted category are issues passes, others aren’t,” one officer said.
Restaurateur Navneet Kalra complained about outlets being booked unnecessarily, forcing them to shut shop an hour earlier at 9pm.
He said it took almost six months after resumption of business to see shoots of recovery and the eateries are already staring at difficult months ahead “due to lack of support from authorities”.
Varun Khera, restaurateur and Noida Chapter head of NRAI, has requested local authorities to extend the permitted timings to 11pm or allow deliveries till late because, unlike last year, people were willing to order in.
Another restaurateur revealed that many restaurants could close down for the next three months to cut operation costs.
Suri said that in an uncertain environment with no official support, the decline in cash flow by almost 60% made it a tough battle for the eateries.
Kalra added that keeping an outlet operational in summers was in any case an expensive affair.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police has been using social media to reach out to citizens to make them aware of the difference between the Civil Defence Volunteers and policemen.
“We are different units. But because the uniforms look similar, people get confused and think it’s the cops harassing them,” claimed one officer.
“We want people who are facing problems of this kind to submit complaints and we will look into it. As for Twitter posts, we do try to clarify the difference to the people.”