Despite coronavirus cases peaking up in India, the Central government is gradually pushing its unlock formula. In its latest set of guidelines, the Centre has finally permitted bars and lounges to open up and serve customers again from 9 September.
This move came nearly a month after the government allowed restaurants to open their doors for diners. “The bar stools are gone. We’re pushing to have most of our customers sitting outdoors rather than indoors. There are no more titbits that we’ll give in a bowl, it’ll all be in single-use cutlery. Regular sanitization, 50% occupancy and social distancing is the standard anyway,” said Harshal Bhavsar, director of Food and Beverage at The Blue Bar in Delhi’s Taj Palace.
The opening of bars has also led to a huge sigh of relief for restauranteurs. Navneet Kalra, who runs Townhall restaurant in Khan Market says, “I’ve been saying this since they let us open restaurants. It is important to allow us to sell our alcoholic beverages, it was always a huge part of our sales. Finally, our customers will get the full experience and we can start working towards covering the devastating losses faced due to the lockdown.”
Meanwhile, the government has issued the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for bars as well. These include wearing compulsory masks for all service providers and customers in waiting, 50% seating capacity to maintain social distancing, hand sanitizer is a must while availing services at these places, following SOPs issued by Delhi Disaster Management Authority for bars in Delhi. Apart from these, bars in containment zones will remain closed and only asymptomatic staff/ customers will be allowed to enter.
However, with so many restrictions in place, whether running a bar would be financially viable or not is still a question. “It’s what it is. A new normal for all of us. We’re happy to be back in business and serving our customers. Can we hope to hit the same revenues as 2019? Of course not. But it’s a start. Just like the rest of the world, we will also learn to stand afresh,” Bhavsar told The Daily Guardian.