A sealing drive in October 2013 saw the closure of several unlicensed restaurants and cafes at the Village, a popular hang-out place for Delhiites, tourists and foreigners. Following the sealing, many restaurateurs shifted to the main street (which has been legalised) to escape the constant uncertainty.
The last 2-3 years saw many eateries opening in HKV, which is visited mostly by high-end customers and expats. Most restaurants like Imperfecto, Fork You, Out of the Box and others on the main street follow the bar and restaurant format. Flipside café has also reopened in this format. Raavi Chou, who opened Barsoom, a café bar, says, “The trend is the bar and restaurant format as HKV has fast become an evening destination. Also, to meet increasing rent and other overheads, most places have started selling alcohol in order to survive.”
However, the authorities have not taken any steps to make it easier for restaurateurs to procure the necessary licenses, nor have they given any clarity on the licensing status despite filing papers on time. Though many are optimistic about the main street (following its legal status), Chou feels that the issues remain. He says,“Though Barsoom is on the main commercial road, we have been waiting since November 2013 for the eating house license from the police authorities. We have managed to get licenses for health trade and tourism, but the alcohol license is granted only once we have the eating house license. Also, we have to get clearances like the DDA and traffic clearance, and the DPCC licence.”
He adds, “The licensing process is still stuck in medieval times, and the people responsible for issuing them are also not well versed on the procedures. So, we continue to be in a state of confusion and helplessness…unless one has extremely deep pockets!”
Till then, restaurant owners continue to be vulnerable to incidents like the PIL filed by a citizen concerned about the environment, which led to the massive sealing drive.