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Delhi: Parking ban, no rooftop seating killing Connaught Place’s nightlife, say restaurateurs


The NDMC has banned rooftop seating in CP following recent collapses and is also planning to bar traffic in the inner circle to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

These are dark times for Delhi’s nightlife hub Connaught Place, say restaurateurs, with many food spots at the colonial-era white shopping arcade losing nearly half their business in the last couple of months.

Rumours about parking restrictions in the inner circle to make it more pedestrian friendly accompanied with sealing of rooftop seating after two cave-ins at the market this month are driving away patrons.

Umang Tewari, who has two restaurants in the inner circle, says, “I don’t feel like doing business here. The rooftop sealing is unfair as they (authorities) can’t put everyone in the same league. If some structures are weak, they should allow restaurant owners to strengthen the structures at least. Footfall has gone down by 50 per cent.”

“Business first suffered due to demonetisation,” he says, adding, “And now people are afraid that it’s unsafe. Also, the uncertainty on the implementation of parking restrictions is killing business in CP. Business has been plummeting since October.”

Priyank Sukhija, owner of about 25 restaurants in NCR, supports Tewari’s claims.
Stating that business in his Connaught Place outlets has gone down by almost 40 per cent, he says, “This is the ideal time for rooftop parties, which is what CP’s nightlife was becoming known for, and the NDMC has sealed rooftops across CP. The government needs to have a pro-business and tourism policy for any business to thrive. We pay commercial house tax for the rooftop, and yet we can’t use it.”
Restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, who owns Farzi Café in CP, claims there’s no need to be afraid of building collapses. “These buildings are as strong as any modern-day structures. But one can’t put 20 tonnes of weight on the roof and hope that it doesn’t collapse – you have to spread out the weight evenly!”

Bars and restaurants catering to the young spring up almost every week in Connaught Place and the grand colonnaded buildings in the heart of Delhi come alive at night.

Kalra adds that while business is down by at least 10 per cent at Farzi, he is getting a lot of calls inquiring if the restaurant is closed.

But, it’s the impending NDMC ban on vehicles in the inner circle and the “pedestrianisation” of CP that has restaurant owners baffled. “I have never got stuck in a jam here,” says Kalra.

“The circle has always been free, so there’s no need for this parking ban. If anything will bring CP down, it’s this parking ban. It’s going to be a disaster. No one will be able to control the traffic, and the whole of CP will be choked.”

Stating that CP is among the more pedestrian-friendly markets he has been to in Asia, complete with underground subways, Priyank adds, “CP is one place where you can go from one end to the other in 10 minutes during peak traffic hours. The NDMC has constructed the Shivaji Parking space, which needs to be utilised. But, you can’t expect people to walk 1 km to go to a restaurant. The weather doesn’t permit it and it’s not safe for people at night, especially women.”

Umang says, “I have two outlets in the inner circle, and I don’t know what to do. The authorities should do a test run first, instead of announcing a trial run for three months. Do it for a week first.”

But restaurant owners are meeting the NDMC, hoping for some clarity. “We have had two-three meetings with the NDMC and though no promises have been made, I think urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu, needs to come and take a look at what is really happening in CP,” says Priyank.

A senior NDMC official said while the restaurant owners may be looking at their revenue, safety of people is their priority. “If a mishap occurs, the responsibility will be on us,” he contended. “We had sent a warning to them to shut down their rooftop facilities in 2015 as well. However, they didn’t comply and we had to take this action.”

Source: India Today

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