National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) wrote multiple times to the authorities and met officials requesting them to keep their premises open till 3am. After much delay, deputy CM Manish Sisodia wrote to the excise commissioner and principal secretary (finance) to coordinate with the agencies concerned, including Delhi Police, to allow operating timings of restaurants up to 3am. The letter also directed the excise department to not harass restaurateurs for staying open till 3am.
NRAI Delhi chapter head, restaurateur Priyank Sukhija, said Delhi was losing revenue to Noida and Gurgaon as people were heading there to party or dine till late. “Longer working hours mean people reach their homes late and usually step out for dinner around 10.30pm. The 1am closing time gives a very small window to diners, which makes them head elsewhere,” he added.
“Most restaurants and bars invested heavily due to the promises in the policy. They are suffering losses due to early closing. While outlets in five-star hotels can stay open till late, standalone establishments continue to suffer daily losses. We hope this decision is implemented soon,” said Sukhija.
Dinesh Arora of Chica and Unplugged Courtyard asserted that nightlife needed the support of all stakeholders — Delhi government, MCD and Delhi Police. “To uplift the struggling hospitality industry, outlets can open till late. They will employ more people and contribute to the government revenue. People from adjoining areas like to party and dine in Delhi, but are put off by the early closing hours. The decision to stay open till late will make the city a party hub,” he added.
Rahul Singh, NRAI trustee, said Delhi had only 546 standalone bars with L17 licence to serve liquor. “A city of this magnitude is definitely under-served. Tourists as well as residents deserve a global experience. Extending service of liquor will provide relief from binge drinking. This will increase jobs and increase revenue of the exchequer. As far as law and order is concerned, if there are more people on the streets, there will be less crime,” Singh explained.
Akshay Anand of Ophelia, Toy Room and Cosy Box said huge investments went into building and running high energy bars and nightclubs. Longer operating hours would enable restaurateurs to space out their table reservations. This would also bring the nightlife scene of Delhi on a par with other major cities of the world.