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Excise asks restaurants-bars to install CCTVs



KOLKATA: All hotels and restaurants must install cameras, as per the latest diktat issued by the state excise department. The order was issued not for security reasons, but to check whether they are shutting at the stroke of midnight as was mandated by the department last November.

Excise officials reason they are trying to implement the closure time, as notified in an order dated November 20, 2018, that said restaurants with bar may remain open from 11am to 12 midnight. “After midnight, no customer should be allowed to stay on the restaurant’s premises, including its service area where food is served,” the order read.

To ensure compliance, the department on January 16, passed another notification asking “licenced premises on which liquor is consumed” to install CCTV cameras at all relevant points.

Hotel and restaurant owners are not happy with the slew of diktats. “Some guests — even those who are not consuming alcohol — may take longer to finish their meals. By chasing them away, sales have fallen by more than 30%,” said Pranav Singh, president, Hotel & Restaurant Association of Eastern India (HRAEI), and owner of Oval and Opium.

HRAEI has written to state excise commissioner Randhir Kumar to relax the restrictions, saying they would comply with the bar closure timings, “but it’s almost impossible to push customers out of the restaurant while they are having dinner”.

Singh told TOI, “Isn’t the excise department’s jurisdiction limited to alcohol? The government must realize that by clubbing the two, the state’s tourism and hospitality sectors are losing business.”

According to HRAEI, the worst affected are the small hotels, where the bar and restaurants operate out of a common premise. “If they are compelled to shut down the premise and reopen at 11am, it’s impossible for them to organize and serve breakfast in the morning,” the letter to the excise commissioner read.

A restaurant owner called the excise department’s arm-twisting. “The food and beverage parts should have been separated while implementing the midnight deadline,” he said, adding, “The excise department has no power to impose restrictions on food intake. The order on CCTV cameras is putting F&B establishments under constant pressure.”

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