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Licensing issue takes the fizz out of new launches


‘Restaurant industry in Delhi is facing a serious problem’

Over the past few years, the Capital has seen a spurt in the number of stand-alone restaurants and pubs.

After Hauz Khas Village and the mall boom, several markets like Connaught Place, Nehru Place, Rajouri Garden and Club Road at Punjabi Bagh have transformed into party destinations that offer a mix of restaurants, pubs and lounge bars. However, the Delhi government’s decision since September 2016 to freeze the issuing of new licences has dampened the spirits of restaurateurs planning to open new restro-bars.

Several chefs and entrepreneurs in the city have set up their restaurants, hired staff and have been paying exorbitant rent for over six months, but are yet to pop the champagne as they haven’t been issued liquor licence.

Food service only

A food and beverage manager who has been with the hospitality industry for over 25 years said, “I had always dreamt of opening my own restaurant and got together with like-minded people to come up with the concept. It’s ready and costs are rising by the day, but we are yet to welcome our first customer. Our entire concept revolves around alcohol, so it doesn’t make sense to launch the brand without it.”

While many haven’t opened their doors, some have started out with food service only.

Anhad Sethi, who recently opened Jom Jom Malay at Ansal Plaza, said although the concept of his restaurant revolves around food, many customers walk away as someone from the group would like to have a drink with the meal. This, he said, is leading to a drop in revenue.

“With several new projects coming up at Ansal Plaza, we had hoped that it would become a destination like Epicuria at Nehru Place. However, the licensing policy has had a negative impact on the project as the expected footfall hasn’t been met,” said Mr. Sethi.

Riyaaz Amlani, the president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), said the restaurant industry in Delhi is facing a serious problem as no fresh excise licences have been issued by the Excise Department for almost a year now.

“Verbal instructions”

“This has been done presumably based on verbal instructions from the political dispensation. The restaurant industry at present is suffering huge financial losses in view of the substantial investments made, high rentals, interest costs, running salaries and other operating costs of restaurants.”

He added that the present situation is leading to loss of jobs and revenue, adversely affecting tourism and many other allied industries.

The NRAI, he added, has been repeatedly requesting the Aam Aadmi Party government to reconsider this decision. “Despite many assurances being given to us [the last one at a meeting held on May 4], there has been no change in the situation on ground,” said the restaurateur.

NRAI data

The NRAI claimed that 60 licences are pending and numerous files are on hold, including those restaurants where inspections have been completed and licence fees paid.

According to statistics provided by the NRAI, licences for restaurants in Delhi were 669 in 2014-15, which increased to 709 in 2015-16 — a marginal increase of 6%.

“Realistically, this is a very flat growth compared to the demographic increase,” said the association.

However, the number of licences for retail vends saw a corresponding increase of 48%. “Based on its size and population, Delhi’s figure of 698 licences is far less as compared to other cities like Mumbai [2,233], Bengaluru [1,372], Pune [933], Hyderabad [498] and Kolkata [454],” he added.

Source: The Hindu

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