Karnataka's night curfew is detrimental for the restaurant industry

While December is the time of maximum earnings for restaurants, the night curfew is preventing Bengaluru’s hospitality industry from recovering from the pandemic.
Representative image of a waiter in a restaurant
Representative image of a waiter in a restaurant
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As the new year approaches with renewed fears of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday, December 26, announced that a night curfew would be in place across the state from December 28 to January 7. The curfew restricts the movement of people between 10 pm and 5 am. Apart from this, he also said that New Year’s Eve celebrations at clubs, bars and other establishments would be prohibited. While the government intends to curb the spread of the virus, for the hospitality industry, which was just beginning to get back on its feet after two tumultuous years, the move will be detrimental.

“This is the period we look forward to the whole year. This is when we could make up for some of the losses we incurred when we were shut down,” says Mukesh Tolani, the Bengaluru chapter head of the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI). In Bengaluru, many restaurants, pubs and bars host New Year’s Eve parties in a big way, with grand spending for entertainment, decor etc. However, with the new restrictions being suddenly imposed, establishments not only lose out on the business that they could have gotten, but also on the money that they spent in arrangements for these parties.

The move to impose the night curfew has drawn ire from the industry, as many argue that the decision to shut only eateries and bars, while allowing other establishments like movie theatres to function at full capacity, is discriminatory. “We understand the need to curb the movement of people in order to control the spread of the virus, but shutting down just our industry will not really help. These steps should be taken in a better way, where you give us more time to operate,” Mukesh Tolani said. He argued that with a night curfew in place, people are forced to congregate before eateries close, which would lead to crowding. Instead, he suggested that if there are no restrictions on timings, customers can walk in at any time convenient for them, thus making it easier to enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

India has been reporting an increasing number of cases of the Omicron variant, with the case count reaching over 700 in less than a month. The Omicron tally has reached 38 in Karnataka, with the total active COVID-19 cases at 2,334.

Jagadish, the operating manager of the popular Bob’s Bar in Bengaluru, said, “If someone comes in at 9.30 pm, we have to send them back after just half an hour. Why will people come to our bar just to sit there for half an hour? Customers would think that it is better to stay home.” He added that instead of putting restrictions in place for 10 days, the government could have prohibited celebrations only on December 31, allowing businesses the chance to make the earnings that they usually make during this time.

The night curfew and prohibition of New Year’s celebrations not only impacts bars and pubs, but restaurants as well. “The night curfew is unscientific. To control the spread of Omicron, night curfew is not the solution. There is a 50% seating capacity in place for restaurants until January 2. When they have allowed 100% capacity for theatres, in buses and the metro, why is the hotel industry different? Every hotel in Karnataka has planned parties for New Year’s this year. Around 60 five-star hotels in Bengaluru have also planned celebrations. But everything has collapsed due to this last-minute decision of the night curfew,” said PC Rao, president of the Bruhat Bengaluru Hoteliers’ Association.

However, the government did not consult any restaurant or hotel associations before announcing the restrictions. “We’ve never been consulted in the last two years, for any of the regulations that have been put forward,” Mukesh Tolani said.

He added that, after two years of restrictions and lockdowns, many restaurants and eateries have relied on take-away and delivery services to keep afloat. “But it never compensates for the loss in business of a customer coming in. Because when you order in, you order very specific items, and when you’re dining in you go overboard at times, you splurge. You enjoy more than what you specifically order in,” he said. “We understand that there is a requirement to curb things but it has to be in a more structured and logical manner,” he added. 

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