Apart from being the national capital, Delhi is known for its fast-paced lifestyle, culture and food. With the pandemic hitting hard, there are fears that the city, which houses around 48,000 food service providers, might lose its sheen amid the closing down of many of the city's most iconic and beloved eateries and restaurants.
The first phase of Unlock 1.0 has bombarded Delhi residents with sad reports of their favourite restaurants and cafes such as Smoke House Delhi, Smokeys and Café Turtle closing down.
About 10% of the eateries and restaurants in Khan Market, which is one of the world's most expensive retail locations, according to real estate consultancy firm Cushman & Wakefield, have permanently closed down following the lifting of restrictions. Owners of restaurants such as Smoke House Deli and Café Turtle have termed the current situation as “financially unviable”.
Among other restaurants, the word has been that high rents and an inability to strike a deal with landlords has resulted in tenants pulling out. Even after high discounts, the deal did not fit, says tenant Priyanka Malhotra.
Khan Market, which was set-up in 1956 to house refugee families from Pakistan, has an average monthly rent of around $13,188 (Rs 1000000).
The president of the Khan Market Association Sanjeev Mehra, slammed claims of high rents and owners being ruthless about negotiations. He told Sputnik there are variety of factors behind restaurants shutting down and not just the landlords and the rent.
“For some of the places, the lease expired and they did not want to renew and for many others, it is not viable considering the government guidelines. How do you expect a restaurant with seating arrangement for 50 people, along with maintaining social distancing norms. How will the restaurants profit with 20-30 percent capacity while paying salaries, bills and rent,” says Mehra.
Even amid the pandemic and lockdown, the Delhi government has refused to waive a property tax which puts the burden on landlords, says Mehra.
The Delhi government income from trade, hotels and restaurants for 2019-20 was US$ 12,839 million (Rs 97414 crore), which is nearly 13 percent of Delhi's total income.
There are rumours that many restaurants in Delhi’s Connaught Place and Hauz Khas are close to shutting down unless there is a viable deal with owners. And since the government guidelines have restricted the sale of alcohol, many eateries and pubs are under greater pressure than ever.
The New at Restaurants
While many outlets have begun their kitchens and some did not even close during the lockdown, many others are still contemplating ways to implement the government guidelines before reopening. Social distancing norms and contact-less service are the main challenges.
At Delhi’s Punjab Grill, the manager Mohammad Arif tells Sputnik that they have been receiving a good response so far, but they are taking necessary precautions as well.
He says: “We are sanitizing the place every day. To maintain contactless service, we have introduced e-menus. There are barcodes on the tables, where people can scan and get menu on their phones. They will be placing orders also on their phones”.
To maintain social distancing, many places, especially bakeries and cafes which do not have enough space, have opened up for take away only. Brand Head for The Artful Baker Manoj Bhatia said: “We have installed the sanitiser. We have 12 seats, so only four people are allowed at one time to maintain social distancing. We are only accepting cards and account transfer to avoid cash exchange”.