News Source: www.hindustantimes.com
Three months on, only 11 south Delhi restaurants apply for al fresco dining licences
News Source/Courtesy: www.hindustantimes.com

It has been nearly three months since the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) approved a policy allowing al fresco dining at restaurants, and the response to scheme has been lukewarm with only 11 restaurant owners applying for licences.

Traders attributed the low response to dull business due to pandemic. However, municipal officials are hopeful that more restaurateurs will come forward for licences.

According to civic authorities, 11 restaurant owners have sought the SDMC’s consent for open-air dining, which would be granted soon. “Of these 11 applications, three have been granted permission to serve food in the open area which includes terrace, balcony and lawn abutting the licensed eating house. The food must be cooked in closed kitchens and only serving of food would be allowed in the open air. Liquor will only be allowed at licensed terraces/lawns and the restaurant owners will have to install view cutters and high parapet grilles to ensure that there is no inconvenience to other passersby,” a senior official of the civic body said, requesting anonymity.

He, however, added that the low response might have been due to the coronavirus pandemic and the situation would improve in a few months.

According to traders’ estimates, there are nearly 2,000 restaurants and eateries in south Delhi of which over 100 have open spaces that can be used for al fresco dining.

To avail of the benefit of the policy, traders will have to pay a licence fee to the civic body -- ₹100 per square foot for normal restaurants and ₹200 per square foot for star-rated (4 stars and above) restaurants and hotels. This fee will be renewed every year.

A restauranteur and a managing committee member of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), Sandeep Goyle said the industry is going through a phase of turmoil due to the pandemic and, ,hence the low response to the open-air dining policy. He said another reason is the fee structure.

“They are charging a fee for the entire year, which sums up in lakhs for many restaurants. But seeing less the crowd is these days, we have appealed to the civic body to charge the licence fee to a pro rata basis which means that the civic body should take the fee for the remaining four months of the financial year (December-March) instead of the entire year. If this is adopted, then the number of applications will certainly go up,” he said.

Joy Singh, the owner of Raasta Bar and Restaurant in Hauz Khas Village, is one of the 11 applicants. He said his licence is yet to come but he has begun preparations to create the infrastructure required for open-air food serving. “Even after you get the permission, you have to spend money in creating required infrastructure such as the installation of high parapet walls and other measures. Not everyone wishes to bear these extra expenses during the pandemic when the business is dull. We are hopeful that business would pick up towards Christmas and New Year,” Singh said.

Anuj Pawra, the owner of Moonshine cafe and bar in Hauz Khas Village, said that he has applied for the licence late last month and i awaiting approval.

“I am looking forward to starting the services from December 15. I’m hopeful of a good response as the threat of virus spread is low in open spaces,” Pawra said.

He said lack of awareness is also another reason for fewer applicants. “Many restaurant owners still don’t know that the SDMC has allowed al fresco dining. They should create awareness and make the process hassle-free,” Pawra said.

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News Source: www.hindustantimes.com

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