Breath Nightclub Lounge And Bar

‘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.

A busy evening at Breath in happier times

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.

ALSO READ: ‘A Pub Can’t Make Profit At 50% Occupancy’

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.

Singhal feels hospitality sector is one the worst-hits by Covid-19

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

‘Reopening Our Restaurant Needed Courage & Caution’

Saurabh Jalan (36), a restaurateur in Kolkata, used the lockdown period to set new safety and hygiene standards in place. When Unlock 1.0 came, Jalan was ready to reboot

I own three restaurants in Kolkata and have been in this business for last five years. The business was running smoothly till Coronavirus pandemic struck. People in Kolkata love adda (loosely, a hangout buzzing with debates and discussion), and long social meetings are an inherent part of the city’s culture. Coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown brought an abrupt end to this.

The hospitality sector has been the worst hit and we didn’t know what the future would hold for all of us. The first lockdown had been announced so suddenly that many of our employees were not able to go back to their home towns in other states, especially our housekeeping staff and chefs etc. on duty that night. The first thing we did was to tell them not to panic and keep their morale high. We provided them shelter in the restaurant itself and took care of their needs to make them feel they were not alone in this crisis.

Realising that the pandemic will change the way we would socialise in future, we trained our staff to set new hygiene and sanitation standards in place.

ALSO READ: ‘How I Turned (Dining) Tables On Lockdown’

I then sat with my partners to draw a plan to provide food to the needy. It had twin purpose: we served our society and also kept our employees engaged in work. Every day, we sent out around 1,000-1,500 food packets. We thus we got better equipped against Covid-19. When the Unlock 1.0 was announced, we were cautious but ready to be back in business.

Our patrons’ safety was paramount. So we kept only one of the three restaurants fully functional while other two were turned into take-away or home delivery setups. The dining in facility was kept limited to our veg multi-cuisine restaurant called Fly Kouzina (Kolkata’s first airline-themed restaurant in Salt Lake area).

I would be lying if I said we are not scared. But we have a solid team which brainstorms every morning about how to make things safer, more hygienic and yet enjoyable for both customers and employees.

Saurabh Jalan (middle) at his restaurant

There are paper envelopes for guests to keep their masks while they are eating. We share the menu via WhatsApp so there is minimum need to touch anything except the food we eat. If customers want to order food from their cars parked outside, we make sure we provide them with as good a service as we do inside the restaurant.

ALSO READ: ‘Some Work From Home, I Workout From Home’

The surfaces are regularly sanitized. Excessive care is taken in keeping the washrooms sanitized after every single use. We also take out the time to address each and every query the guests might have related to our preparation against Covid-19.

Based on our experience on Fly Kouzina, we hope to open our other two restaurants pretty soon. Both the public as well as restaurant owners are showing courage with caution. Each day brings with itself new challenges and newer solutions to keep the fight against Covid-19 going.

We have only about 30-40 people coming in to our restaurant every day but we hope things will begin to pick up slowly. Flying is still very risky but people can get a little feel of travel at our airline-themed restaurant.