As someone who has been a frequent bar hopper since college days, Delhi-based journalist Akanksha Verma always wished bars could operate beyond 1am. So recently, when a committee set up by the Delhi government proposed that restaurants, clubs and pubs in the capital should be allowed to stay open till 3am, Verma, who does late-hour shifts, was pleasantly surprised. Expressing her support for the committee’s recommendation, Verma says that it would be amazing for party-goers like herself if bars across Delhi start operating till 3am.
“Bars in Delhi are among the primary attractions for those who reside in and around the national capital, especially the college and office going crowd. After midnight, we have extremely limited options left as only bars of five-star hotels stay open,” she says. Verma also believes that it will be a progressive move as an evolving nightlife will also help the city advance in terms of culture, propelling it towards a more open mind-set. “Further, the gradual developing of social activity at night may also be followed by the city becoming safer even during odd hours,” she adds.
Nikhil Saxena, Design Head at Ustraa also supports the proposal. “It’s a great idea to have Delhi bars open till 3am. More time for people to party, more time for businesses to earn, more freedom for grown-ups to decide what they want to do instead of the government telling them what is good for them,” Saxena says. He believes that it should be left for the people to decide what they want to do, while the government should focus on providing them a safe environment to do it in. “Honestly I don’t see why there should be any time limit imposed by the government on opening and closing hours of any business,” he adds.
“It’s a positive step but probably not required for all days of the week. They could look at different hours for weekends. 2am would also suffice,” says Entrepreneur and Promoter Sudhanshu Rawat.
He says though this could be progressive for the hospitality industry, it might raise issues around drinking and driving and women’s safety. “Today, the rest of the ecosystem is not ready and even if they want to allow bars in Delhi to stay open till 3am, it should be done in a staggered manner."
Then there’s Bhawna Sharma, Team Lead, Gaming at Aristocrat Technologies India, also a frequent party goer, who thinks the current timings of 1am are perfect to go out and enjoy great drinks at any bar. “The current timings are not bad but beyond this it can become actually late. Also considering public conveyance and women's security in the capital, extending timelines would just add more to the problems than add to just leisure and fun,” she says. Sharma says that she enjoys going out and partying with her friends but she strongly believes that some guidelines are really meant for the good.
While there has been mixed reactions from party goers, the hospitality sector has appreciated the recommendation. Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, thinks that such progressive measures taken by the government will help the industry, as it is one of the highest employment generators in the country. “We're excited to welcome this change to New Delhi’s after-hours economy. The state government is recognising the true potential of the capital's hospitality sector,” Amlani says.
The restaurateur says that the industry has gone through a devastating time during the lockdown, and things are now looking up with consumer sentiment being positive. “People are stepping out again and the confidence in dining out at restaurants is back. The move will also be a booster shot for tourism in New Delhi,” he adds.
Gaurav Sareen, Project Manager at Tulleeho, a provider of beverage education, training & consultancy services, says the proposal is a big relief for the restaurants and bar community, particularly for Delhi as they sense a breathing space in comparison to states like Punjab and Mumbai with night curfews. “The restaurant industry was effectively brought to a halt by the lockdown. Since re-opening, there have been modest signs of recovery, but social distancing and widespread working from home continue to limit progress – and pubs and bars have typically been hit hard by the recession,” says Sareen.
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“Pubs, cafes and restaurants directly employ a large percentage of the entire hospitality workforce. They also employ a disproportionate number of workers with low qualifications. In addition, pubs, cafes and restaurants are part of the amenities that make neighbourhoods and local high streets better,” he adds.
To encourage businesses, the committee has also proposed that the license fee that restaurants and bars are expected to pay should be determined on the basis of their location and not seat covers, which is the current practice. Sareen says that the only cause of concern would be the license fees for pubs and bars.“Premium areas like Khan Market and Connaught Place are paying the same license fee as comparatively low-rental areas like Northeast Delhi, which hopefully should be discontinued and revised,” he says.
Content Creator Ayandrali Dutta says that the move will be a very important progressive measure for the F&B places in the capital. “As the government panel says that bars and restaurants can open till 3am, I'm totally in support of this whole idea. It's great for those who work late nights and just want to chill with their friends over a few drinks. I also feel there should be few liquor shops who can get a special license and open till late at night,” she says.
Dutta also adds that there has to be a proper vigilance and regulation on the number of people that are being let inside a bar. “And yes, safety should be the top-most priority when we talk about opening bars till 3am. I don't even mind if they regulate the number of drinks/pegs one can take after a certain point of time as that too will keep a hygiene check on the amount of alcohol intake,” she adds.