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Hospitality blues: New Year business may crash 70%

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New Delhi | Mumbai: New Year hospitality business will likely be down about 65-70% from last year as night curfews and restrictions on social gatherings in states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have hit celebrations, which typically start from 9 pm on December 31, industry executives said.

Leading hotels and large fine-dining restaurant chains said they are trying to beat curfews by starting New Year parties at noon, holding sundowners between 5 and 8 pm, and offering in-home party packages including do-it-yourself cocktails, exotic cuisine and, in some cases, even DJs and staycation packages.

“While such restrictions have impacted the usual business around New Year, we will begin celebrations from midday on December 31 till 10 pm,” said Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels (ASPH) managing director Vijay Dewan.

K’taka Move Offers Some Relief

The group, which runs the Park Hotel and Flury’s patisserie chains, said many guests have already booked staycation packages as they have the option to stay through the night and be part of celebrations without getting affected by curfews.

Karnataka’s withdrawal of the night curfew will help revellers in Bengaluru, a big party hotspot, ring in the New Year. That will mitigate the nationwide impact to some extent, said industry executives who were banking on healthy business in the New Year in an otherwise bleak year that saw 35-40% of hotels, restaurants and bars shutting down.

“The night curfew will expectedly have an impact on New Year eve celebrations on an anyway beleaguered industry, though we do understand that safety is paramount,” said Zorawar Kalra, managing director of Massive Restaurants, which operates the Farzi Cafe and Bo Tai chains. The Karnataka rollback of the night curfew, however, will help those that have a higher number of units there.

UK Virus Strain Fears

While other states have imposed curfews amid fears of the more infectious UK strain having entered India, industry is still hoping for relaxations.

“The night curfews come at a time when consumer confidence was returning and the hospitality business had started to revive. We follow robust safety protocols and we are hoping other states relax the timings too,” said Riyaaz Amlani, managing director, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which runs the Social, Mocha and SmokeHouse Deli chains.

“A lot of party revellers will have to stay indoors and it hurts business,” said Ankur Bhatia, executive director at the Bird Group, which owns and operates Roseate Hotels & Resorts. “We have tried to counter it with staycation packages, which have seen a good response.”

The Taj Group of hotels said it’s offering holiday menus across 27 hotels, with orders accompanied by a link to a virtual music performance by the Shillong Chamber Choir, through its food delivery app Qmin.

Maharashtra has imposed a curfew from 11am to 6 pm. It has also barred all mass gatherings and the movement of five or more people in a group after 11 pm.

‘Big Setback’

“This is the time of the year which we are all hoping to make much-needed sales and profits,” said AD Singh, managing director, Olive Group, which runs Olive Bar and Kitchen, SodaBottleOpenerWala and The Grammar Room. “However, these curfews are a severe setback to all of us.” Singh said his team is working to get customers to come in earlier for celebrations.

Restaurant and hotel owners have been trying to meet the government and political leaders to seek some easing of the curbs.

“We might be meeting NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday, where we would be discussing the issue of whether we could extend the deadline for eating in restaurants,” said Sukesh Shetty, general secretary of the Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association. A few members also feel the state should allow a relaxation on parties being held on December 31 at least.

In Mumbai, people going to work on night shifts and other commercial activity won’t be stopped, but establishments used for entertainment and recreational purposes such as hotels, pubs, restaurants, bars and theatres will have to shut by 11 pm. Apartment complexes that normally organise New Year parties cannot do so as these will be considered mass gatherings. However, people can invite four to five guests to their homes for parties, said Mumbai Police officials.

Public Spaces Out of Bounds

Public spaces such as Worli Seaface, Gateway of India, Marine Drive and Bandra Bandstand will be monitored by police officials to ensure there’s no overcrowding. In any case, they will be out of bounds after 11 pm.

The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) has asked Maharashtra and Gujarat to lift the night curfew in both states, after Karnataka rolled back the measure on Thursday evening.

“Hotels and restaurants are very safe options for people to celebrate, with protocols being strictly adhered to. It also prevents law and order problems, which can happen if people just celebrate on the streets,” said FHRAI senior vice president Pradeep Shetty. Gujarat, which is also a large dining-out market, has a curfew in place between 9 pm and 6 am in large cities such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot.

On Friday, the Pune district administration sent a proposal to the Maharashtra government seeking the extension of the night curfew across city limits as well as popular celebration spots such as Lonavala, Aamby Valley and Mulshi dam.

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