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Delhi: No longer up in the air, dining in open space to be reality



NEW DELHI: Taking a cue from European countries, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) is planning to allow open-air restaurants in the areas falling under its jurisdiction. The corporation has come out with a draft policy on such restaurants offering dining in their open spaces. They will also be allowed to play light music, though seating diners on the pavements as done abroad will not be permitted.

With only a limited number of customers possible due to social distancing restrictions, restaurants and eateries have seen a drastic reduction in their revenues on being allowed to resume business after the Covid-19 lockdown. There are around 2,000 dining establishments in south Delhi, and many of them may benefit from the new policy.
Civic officials claimed that the policy was in the pipeline before the pandemic struck. But its importance has increased in the time of corona, they added. “Open spaces with good circulation of air are considered to be safer than closed rooms with air conditioning. Not only is the risk of infection lower but open spaces will also allow more sitting capacity augmentation,” explained an SDMC official.

Another official said, “While the final licensing rates may be modified, they are likely to be around Rs100 per square feet of restaurant space. The policy is ready and the preamble has been put forward. It will be discussed in the next standing committee meeting of the civic body, after which the councillors are likely to approve of the measure.”

An official reasoned that under this new policy, the existing health trade licence holders would be allowed to use their open spaces to set up open-air restaurants, providing not only a new dining experience to the customers, but also helping generate new revenues for the civic body.

Under the draft provisions, restrictions have been proposed on the music to be played in such open-air establishments. “Neither live band performances nor loud music will be allowed. Mellow jazz-like music, however, can be played in the background,” added another official, who has worked on the policy. Regulations prohibit noise levels beyond 45-55 decibels in residential areas.

However, unlike some west European countries, the pavement space outside the restaurants will not be permitted to be used to seat customers. And to prevent fire accidents, the policy also doesn’t permit the setting up of open-area kitchen, thereby ruling out barbecues and similar facilities. “Food will have to be prepared in enclosed kitchens and all safety standards in terms of hygiene and fire hazards will be applicable on this food preparation area to prevent diseases or fire accidents,” an official said.
The official added, “The licensing rate may be tweaked, but we have decided that the licence will only be granted to groups that are already running a licensed indoor restaurant. With the standing committee and mayoral elections of SDMC over now, the policy is likely to get the nod soon.”

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