BENGALURU: Pubs and bars in the State will be allowed to serve alcohol in their premises for their dine-in customers from September 1 on condition that at no time they would have more than 50 per cent of occupancy. The watering holes have also been instructed to strictly follow the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Covid 19.
The Government Order (GO) issued on Monday cleared the decks for the re-opening of pubs, bars and resto-bars, which were closed since March 24, when the first lockdown was announced as an extreme measure of precaution to contain the spread of the highly infectious virus. While there is enough emphasis on safety, there is no restriction on business timings. “They are allowed to function as per their licence condition,” said a senior State Excise officer. Excise Commissioner, M Lokesh had presented the proposal on re-opening of pubs and bars last weekend to the government; soon after the MHA Unlock 4.0 guidelines were issued.
It may not be business as usual for a long time
The GO has been widely welcomed by the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry in the State, which is on the brink of collapse because of no business and mounting debts due to the pandemic. Amidst hope of being open in the festive season, there is a strong apprehension in the industry that business may not be as usual for a long time. “While a couple of our restaurants were open for delivery, the others were not. To restart them at short notice will be impossible given the fact that majority of our staff had left town long back.
They need to be brought back, tested; the establishments restocked and sanitised before we can consider resuming normal operations,” said Manu Chandra of ‘Toast and Tonic’ and ‘Olive Beach Bar and Kitchen,’ Chandra is also the head of Bengaluru chapter of National Restaurants Association of India.Amit Roy of ‘Watson’s’ concurred with Chandra on staff crunch and said opening of his popular chain of pubs will take some time. “Checking of stocks, kitchen and other infrastructure also needs to be looked into,” said Roy.
Arvind Raju of the ‘Biere Club’ - the first microbrewery in the City said that his staff has been trained in the last three months on safety precautions and sanitisation. His microbrewery was open for takeaway craft beer and food. “Biere Club has now become a 100 per cent no-smoking place. There will be no service at the bar and there will be no salad in the menu. There will be strict food, service and housekeeping protocols,” said Raju.
“The news has come as a big relief to the industry after a gruelling five-and-a half months. We were the first to be closed and one of the last to be opened. We will be extremely cautious about safety and hygiene and will take all mandatory precautions,” said Anirudh Kheny of ‘1Q1 Kitchen & Bar.’
Pubs and bars in Karnataka have been closed since March 20, much ahead of the lockdown from March 24. In May the government had reopened retail liquor stores (CL2 licencees) andallowed the sale of takeaway liquor from pubs and bars (CL9 licencees) at Maximum Retail Price (MRP). The government also allowed sale of take away craft beer from the microbreweries. Majority of pubs and bars in Bengaluru, however, chose to remain close because they did not find selling of liquor at MRP rates, a “financially viable” option.