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Ending the night curfew is good, but alcohol services need to restart: Anurag Katriar



With the announcement of Unlock 3.0, there has been a great deal of activity in the hospitality space. ET HospitalityWorld spoke to Anurag Katriar, President, NRAI. Executive Director & CEO, deGustibus Hospitality. Excerpts from the interview.

Katriar began by saying that it was great to have Unlock 3.0 in place. “Among the three big concerns that we had after Unlock 2.0 — first was restricted hours, second was restricted numbers of people, and third was no alcohol. So this definitely ticks one of the boxes because the restriction in hours is gone. Now, it is up to the states to decide on the timings of restaurants,” he said.

The president of NRAI was still a bit taken aback with the fact that nothing had been done on the matter of serving liquor in restaurants. “I understand bars have to remain shut, because of the typical association of a bar with a crowd and close proximity, but I think the authorities need to also differentiate between alcohol served in bars and serving alcohol at dine-in restaurants. That latter must be permitted ,” he said, adding that this move would go a long way to help the industry.

The issue of serving alcohol was all about interpretation of the law by the states (since liquor is a state subject). Katriar took the example of Punjab, where alcohol is being served on tables at restaurants for a few weeks now. “The advisory of the MHA states that bars cannot be opened. So bars remain can shut with nothing on display, and nobody at the counter. At the same time, table service can be allowed in restaurants because what can be served on the table is not defined. So, according to the interpretation of the Punjab State Government, alcohol is allowed,” he said. Other states are also waking up to this aspect, Rajasthan and Haryana have started to allow alcohol in room service now, he added.

“Excise is the biggest source of income for every state government. So everyone wants it to restart. I think even Delhi may go the Punjab way. I think it’s a positive interpretation of the advisory. They’re not opening the bar, but they’re not preventing service of alcohol on the restaurant dining tables,” Katriar surmised.

“I don’t see the Union Home Ministry lifting the order until Unlock 4 happens. I don’t think they’ll make an exception for alcohol in Unlock 3. So it will be basically on the basis of interpretation of the law by the state governments,” he added.

Every state government has come up with the maximum capacity that can be filled in restaurants. NRAI feels that a blanket rule like reducing the numbers by 50%, may be unfair for some restaurants. “Take the instance of Udipi restaurants, where even at 50% capacity, people sit just half a feet away, while there are other sprawled-out establishments, where tables are already placed at six feet distance. Why reduce capacity there?” he questioned.

“So We have suggested it be a little more practical. While we totally agree the distance of six feet between two tables is good, at the same time you also have to realise if somebody’s sitting back to back, then they will need partitions to increase safety and hygiene. These are the proposals we have made to various state governments,” Katriar added.

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