As Delhi’s nightlife turned Covid hotspot, new restrictions made its way
With the recent social distancing violations at the city’s bars and pubs coming into limelight – it seems a night curfew was inevitable
Just as night life was getting back into action, a steady and worrying rise in Covid cases has made the Delhi government decide to end them. Night curfew has been announced and will be imposed from 10 pm to 5 am till April 30, for now. At the same time there is word that in the past 24 hours covid cases in Delhi have peaked to over 5,000 cases.
The curfew comes after a weekend crackdown against those violating Covid guidelines by the Delhi Police which prosecuted 173 people, including 13 banquet hall owners, 58 restaurant owners and 3-night club owners, on the intervening night of April 3.
Night curfew would mean usual dinner and drinks services will be cut short, and bars and clubs have their normal functioning. Shubh Sharma, who owns six restaurants, four of them bars including Barcode and Churchill’s in South West Delhi’s Dwarka however, welcomes the decision by the government.
He points to the practicality of their own efforts, and the fact that restaurants are unable to stop people from engaging in behaviour which shuns Covid-19 protocols. “We are following all the Covid-19 protocols but after a certain point of time you can’t do much. When a customer is entering you can sanitise and check their temperature. But after two hours, they are high, they want to dance. I can’t go up to them and say sanitise and do this and that, so at a certain point of time it’s not in your hands. After 4-5 drinks you are anyway not in the senses to take care (of yourself).”
But for Sharma, the night curfew means a business again put in jeopardy after last year’s lockdown against Covid throwing restaurants and bars into huge, mounting losses. “I am 110% dependent on the dinner part (for revenue) and this will be affected. But even then, I appreciate the curfew because health is wealth. And the situation (in Delhi) is not right. If you are drinking at my place and then carrying a virus home then it’s a serious thing”.
Manager at French restaurant REVE at Worldmark Aerocity, Pascaline points out that while for them monitoring their customers’ safety habits has not been a problem, she admits “People have stopped wearing masks, sanitising and are moving too close to each other.” And while they have kept seats apart, sanitise regularly and check the temperatures, she admits that “we can’t control their (customers) behaviour before and after they step into our restaurant.”
Like Sharma, Pascaline supports the government’s decision even though it “does not seem like a good decision for the hospitality industry”.
“It is a good preventive decision. The aim is to slow down the number of cases. It will be bad for the economy but at the same time, we need to maintain social distancing to reduce physical contact.”
With Covid numbers rising, police staff of south east district and New Delhi had over the weekend checked restaurants and bars and even banquet halls, guest houses and markets.
In south east Delhi, the drive yielded a registration of 10 FIRs under relevant sections and 330 challans for not wearing masks, violating social distancing rules and spitting on the common passageway.
Bars like MHouse Club and Bar, Roar Night Club at Eros Hotel Nehru Place were fined for social distancing violation and serving Hookahs. Two cases under COTPA act and section 3, Epidemic act are registered against them at PS Kalkaji. In fact, the MCD and Excise department have also been informed for the cancellation of their licenses.
One case was registered against Boken Cafe at PS Amar Colony. Many restaurants like Brijwasi, Al Nawaz, Al Jawahar, Zehra Al Noor and Al Bake were also fined for violation of Covid norms and prosecuted u/s 3 of Epidemic act in the New Friends colony sub division.
Pascaline however does not view the night curfew as an indication of the government blaming restaurants and bars for the rise of Covid cases. Instead, she says “it’s more for customers who are careless about keeping safe.”
Patriot has also been to a couple of resto-bars in South Delhi and CP, and observed that while social distancing is in place with tables spaced out between them, and sanitizers available, once the booze hits, the masks are off. People can be seen mingling, as was the case at Summer House Café, Aurobindo place market, with nothing much the staff could do.
While staff always have their masks on, and every table is placed at a safe distance from each other, with individual boxed cutlery sets, a sanitiser provided at every table, people can be seen mingling.
As the night progresses, people are on the dance floor, dancing in groups, with strangers, sans their masks. With vaccination still not available for people below the age of 45 and the crowds thronging bars, despite every day rising numbers in the Capital a night curfew may have been inevitable.
(Cover: An image from Summer House in August of 2020 )