‘Night Curfew Doesn’t Break The Chain, Only Hurts Business’
Yash Singhal, owner of Breath Fine Lounge & Bar in New Delhi, says the night curfew will not serve its desired purpose. Singhal also rues zero support to hospitality sector from the Govt
Well begun is half done, they say. But what do you say when your venture has to close down the very week or so it opens? I had just launched my venture, Breath Fine Lounge & Bar, and had barely got the license to operate on March 12, 2020 when the lockdown was announced. Imagine having a business shut down even before it has properly started!
And we remained shut for nearly six months and could resume business only around mid-September (I had to pay rent for those six months). In what has been a terrible year for businesses across sectors, hospitality was perhaps the worst hit. And just when we are finding feet again now, comes the night curfew.
I wish the government imposed a lockdown for a few days rather than night curfew for an unspecified period. For, in my eyes a night curfew does not ‘break the chain’, it only impacts businesses like ours, and in turn the livelihoods of the people we employ. Our night club is allowed to remain open till 1 am, but now we have to close at 9 pm. For a nightlife hub, things only begin to warm up at 9 pm.
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People generally get off work around 7-7:30 pm and then need an hour or so to get ready and travel and then reach a place to unwind at around 9 in the evening. Closing down at 9 means we have to take our last order at 8:15 pm. Where does that leave us? Nowhere!
Our occupancy rates have gone down by more than 50% even when we are just recovering from last year’s setback. We have seating capacity of 200 people, but to ensure social distancing, it was brought down to 100. Yet, only 30-40 people come about in a good day (not at the same time). We used to host corporate parties and family gatherings. That circuit is now lost.
I wish industry representatives had made a team and reached out to the government to tend to the woes of the hospitality sector. We are an entrepreneurial lot and always figure out ways to serve the customers better, but we need some policy support too. Our huge rents could have been waived off at such hard times and excise relaxations could have been provided. The DDMA (Department of Delhi Disaster Management Authority) needs to understand that the pandemic is unprecedented for everyone and the government should assist the more vulnerable sectors, such as ours.
The hospitality sector is seen as a glamorous sector and many of us have financially sound backgrounds. But with a year and more of the pandemic, even those with strong savings are under severe stress. We want to cooperate with the government and fight Covid seriously, but then proper measures need to be in place.
I reiterate, a lockdown for a week or so will bring down more cases than a night curfew. Or maybe if lockdown is not an option, then strict monitoring during the day us required. I am sure we will win the war against coronanvirus, but all the sectors, plus the government and people, need to look out for each other. And we need to keep hoping for better times!
As Told To Yog Maya Singh