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Pollution or not, winter means business for outdoor eateries in Delhi

The hospitality sector braced itself for a hit due to severe air pollution this winter, but their concerns were unfounded

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

outdoor eateries

Blue skies, sun and the winter chill -- a combination so irresistible that even spiking AQI levels can't stop Delhiites from venturing into the polluted outdoors, to go for walks, picnics and catch a meal or more in an eatery offering al fresco dining.

Every year, as the warmth of the mellow winter sun embraces Delhi, rooftop restaurants and eateries with outdoor seating become popular hang-out destinations for those who can afford it.

This year has been no different, notwithstanding the air quality index in the Delhi-NCR region oscillating between severe and very poor.

The braced itself for a hit, but their concerns were unfounded.

According to the New Delhi Traders Association, which has several restaurants with outdoor seating, including The Junkyard Cafe, Odeon Social, Unplugged Courtyard and Tamasha, poor air quality is not a factor impacting business.

Pollution is not a major worry, say restaurateurs and customers.

"A normal person does not bother about pollution. They are more bothered about enjoying the weather," Atul Bhargava, president of the association, told PTI.

He added that a large number of wedding functions and parties are hosted in the outdoors in the winter.

The overall "vibe" of an outdoor dining space is what takes Chandni Mahajan to rooftop restaurants every winter.

A comfortably warm afternoon with some greenery and a good view, and she is sold. That the air she is breathing in is polluted to an extent of being dangerous isn't a thought that crosses her mind too often.

"If I'm going out in daytime in winters, I prefer to sit in an outdoor area. I don't consciously think about the pollution part so much," the independent image consultant said.

Not all restaurateurs are oblivious of the impending dangers of the dipping air quality.

Many have taken measures like installing vertical gardens, potting large number of plants and having artificial water bodies in the vicinity to mitigate pollution in open air areas.

Although the abysmal air quality hasn't had a significant impact on the business yet, Terrace Grill in Vaishali on the eastern edge of the city, for instance, has opted to go green to minimise the impact.

The restaurant located on the tenth floor of the Mahagun Sarovar Portico Suites has an open dining area of 2,150 square feet that can accommodate 52 heads.

"As the Terrace Grill Restaurant is on tenth floor, the air quality is still better. The restaurant also has green plants which helps," said the general manager, Nitin Kapoor.

According to an official from SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting), plants in large numbers, particularly in the form of vertical gardens, in an open area helps purify the air to a large extent.

"Having anything related to plants, or vertical gardening helps where the pollution levels are high because these make the particulate matter in air settle," Gufran Beig, SAFAR project director, told PTI.

A water body also reduces the number of breathable pollutants in air.

"With a water body, the humidity in the air increases, making the pollutants settle," Beig said.

According to Kapoor, some visitors have come with masks and requesting outdoor seating.

But Rohit Maingi of Bottles and Barrels in Gurgaon said his experience was quite the opposite.

Trade has been "good" this season so far and guests have often requested for seats in the terrace region, which can accommodate around 100 guests, he said.

"Pollution is not a major concern for us as we have adequate plants as well as a big water body in the middle of our terrace which minimises the pollution effect.

"We have also covered our terrace with bamboo, which avoids the noise of external traffic and pollution as well," he said.

Beig dismissed the popular belief that staying indoors is always a better alternative to the outdoors, as the height at which a restaurant is positioned is inversely proportional to the severity of pollution in air.

"The air quality indoors at a lower height is far worse than outdoor restaurants located at higher altitudes," he said.

Beig noted that air quality improves with height, thereby making restaurants at a height relatively safer than those closer to the ground.

"The quality of air improves with every 10 metres of height so open air restaurants on a higher floor will not be as polluted as a place that is on the ground and near say, a traffic junction or any other crowded place," he said.

So, the next time you decided to eat out, don't worry about the pollution in air, just make sure it is somewhere high up there.

First Published: Sun, January 20 2019. 15:15 IST