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Business, behind bars



The last two months have been cruel to the restaurant business, and pubs and bars especially, who are still not allowed to serve alcohol at their outlets. No hotel management school would have given them the skills to cope with the lockdown and what it brought with it.

With no hope on the horizon, pub and bar owners are writing their own coping strategy. There is no consensus. There is no one-size-fit-all. Each one is doing what they think is best and hoping that it will work.

The lowest hanging fruit. Amit Ahuja, owner of The Open Box and MISU on St. Marks Road, says a firm “No”. “I am not going to rely on discounts to attract my customers. My customers will come to me if they want good quality food, good quality service, in a hygienic and safe environment.”
Ahuja is optimistic that his customers will eventually start coming back, “at least a decent percentage of what we used to do before. I don’t believe it should take so long,” he says.

Food safety
Pravesh Pandey, who owns Byg Brewski in Hennur and Sarjapura Road is not averse to the idea of discounts. He says many of his patrons have suffered salary cuts and he would like to give them some discounts. Pandey’s strategy is also to tap into herd mentality – when people see their friends going out, they follow too, he says. Pandey knows that to get people to come into his brewery, he needs to give them an assurance that the risks are almost zero. “We have a 200-point audit checklist which we have prepared after consulting with Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, National Restaurant Association of India and the ministries of health and tourism. We have been training our staff through videos all through the lockdown.”

Stay strong and prevail
Pandey is extremely positive about staying afloat. “Whatever happens in the future we will deal with it. Keeping that in mind, and with a fearless attitude, we decided to open our restaurants and build trust in people.” With the growth in home delivery orders, Byg Brewski launched a new kitchen in Indiranagar, on Wednesday. Pandey also says that they’re now calculating their profits and losses daily, instead of once a month. “We need to understand where we can cut costs.”

All or nothing
Amit Roy, owner of Watson’s, says it doesn’t make sense for them to open if they can’t serve alcohol. Roy is not planning to open any of his pubs until the government approves serving of liquor.

So Roy is not paying his staff any salaries but is giving them food and shelter. He plans to retain them.

He says his landlords have been kind enough to waive off the rents for the last two months and he’s pinning his hopes on the government allowing sale of liquor in pubs soon.

This is the end
Another restaurateur Viraj Suvarna who owns – Take 5, Blistering Barnacles, Goofy’s, and Baker’s Ode plans to shut down his pubs as he feels there is no hope for restaurants serving liquor in future.

“It’s time for renewal of licences and it will cost me Rs 8.4 lakh for each licence to be renewed. I am not planning to renew it,” he said. He is upset that this field of business is not a part of the 20-lakh core package announced by the PM. Suvarna shut down his pub in Chikmagalur in March.

… So the party shifts to parks

With bars and restaurants not serving liquor at their premises anymore, partying in cars in isolated areas, parks and long drives have increased.

A resident of New Thippasandra told BM that he noticed a few youths partying with alcohol, till late into the night, at the New Thippasandra ground. “No one visits the ground at night. It has a dilapidated structure and it used to be pretty desolate. Not anymore,” said the resident.

Abhiram, a resident of Bandemutt said that people in cars buy booze from MRP outlets and drive to the outskirts of the city, park their cars and have a party with friends. Sometimes they do it in neighbourhoods, at night.

A police source told this newspaper that since there are no drink-and-drive checks as breathalysers are not being used, people feel they won’t be penalised.

“Drinking in public is an offence. Since we do not use breathalyzers due to the fear of virus infections, citizens must bring such acts to the notice of the police. We will immediately dispatch our Hoysala patrol vehicles and take action,” said Bhaskar Rao, city police commissioner.

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