Bars in hotels, clubs and restaurants reopened in Delhi on Wednesday after being closed for over 170 days and some of them received a good number of customers on the first day despite the COVID-19 scare.
The excise department, however, said violation of COVID-19 guidelines could lead to sealing of the premises or cancellation of licence.
Priyank Sukhija, the owner of restaurant chains such as Plum By Bent Chair, Lord of the Drinks and Tamasha in Delhi and Mumbai, said there has been a "substantial increase" in bookings for both lunch and dinner.
"We will do much better than what we used to do without alcohol being served. We only have 50 per cent seating. We are keeping sanitiser on every table," Sukhija said.
He said they are ensuring that guests remove their masks only when they get seated at their tables.
"Our servers are wearing masks all the time. The business is a lot better. In the restaurant where we did 10 covers for lunch, we did 30 covers today and the billing was four-five times due to the liquor orders. We were doing eight to 10 per cent of pre-COVID sales earlier but now we hope that we will touch 40 to 50 per cent of pre-COVID sales soon," he added.
Suveet Kalra, Owner of Ardor, said they have put up acrylic glass portions between all tables to maintain minimum six feet distancing and have placed hand and feet sanitizers at the restaurant entrance.
"We have introduced antibody cocktails with immunity boosting ingredients etc. Customers in large groups are being discouraged, rather small gatherings are being welcomed so as to maintain minimum crowd," he said.
The organic cocktails contain no preservatives and only syrups etc, he said, adding that guests are being explained their benefits.
"There are UV filters in the air-conditioning ducts so as to kill all germs and we are using UV sanitised cutlery and conducting Aarogya Setu App Check on all Employees / Vendors," he said.
Sumit Goyal, owner of Gastronomica, said, "The business has been slow for now. Maybe the weekend will get better as it was the first day and people are less aware."
He said they got COVID-19 tests conducted for all the staffers and common areas and tables are sanitised frequently.
"We conduct daily temperature checks of all staff members and anyone with fever is refused entry and needs a minimum 14 day quarantine to rejoin. We are ensuring contactless ordering using QR codes and contactless payments have been enabled, Guests are given a choice to use disposable crockery," Goyal said.
An official said entry will be allowed only to those wearing masks and to asymptomatic customers and staff as part of the preventive measures against COVID-19.
The official said no customer who is standing will be served liquor by such establishments which will also have to ensure provisions for sanitiser dispenser and thermal scanning at the entrance.
The excise department said its enforcement teams would keep a strict vigil to ensure strict compliance of COVID-19 guidelines by these establishments.
Rahul Singh, owner and CEO of The Beer Cafe, said, "We are opening our outlets one by one. Today, we opened the one at Aerocity and tomorrow we will open the ones at Connaught Place, Nehru Place, Promenade and Pacific Mall."
He further said, "Of course, we cannot get back to the pre-COVID era but I am happy with the response on the first day."
In a recent order, the department directed its assistant commissioner (enforcement) to deploy teams to check compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) while serving liquor at bars in hotels, clubs and restaurants.
Strict compliance of SOPs on COVID-19 precaution is the foremost condition for opening of bars for an allowed period from September 9 to September 30, it said.
"The enforcement teams will keep a close watch as liquor is served at hotels, restaurants and clubs to ensure there is no violation of COVID-19 safety precautions prescribed under the SOPs. If needed extra manpower will be deployed for the purpose," a senior government officer said.
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), in its order on September 3, had directed that such bars will be permitted to open in Delhi, except in containment zones, from September 9 to 30.
The activities related to bars in hotels, clubs, restaurants for on-premises consumption of liquor under different licence categories are allowed from September 9 to September 30, subject to compliance of SOPs, the excise department said in its order.
"The onus is completely on the licensee to comply with the SOPs issued by the DDMA and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," said the order.
The owners of these establishments and licensee of hotels, clubs and restaurants will ensure compliance of SOPs failing which action will be taken against them, officials said. "In case of violation, prompt action will be taken including sealing of premises and cancellation of licence," they said.
The DDMA's SOPs allow reopening of such establishments with only 50 per cent of the approved seating capacity, use of face masks and gloves by staff and social distancing.
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