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NEW DELHI : Amid yet another spike in Covid-19 cases, the Delhi government today imposed a stringent weekend lockdown in the Capital starting January 8. The fresh restrictions have come as a body blow to malls and restaurants in the city that saw good recovery in the last few months.

Restaurateurs are livid against the new order. Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants that runs chains like Farzi Cafe, Made In Punjab and Masala Library said the number one priority for the industry has always been the safety of its patrons and colleagues but he's unable to understand weekend lockdowns as they will have a very unsettling and deep socio-economic impact on the already beleaguered industry.  

The food and beverage industry is the second largest employer of human capital in India, he said. "Over the past two years there has already been a permanent closure of 30% of all restaurants and 25% permanent loss of employment. We are hopeful that the covid numbers come under control swiftly and that the hospitalisations remain very low so that these debilitating curbs can be lifted," said Kalra. 

Kabir Suri, president of the National Restaurant Association of India said restaurants in Delhi are already operating on two restrictions, that of reduced seating capacity of 50% and also daily night curfew of 11pm.   
 
"One doesn't understand the scientific reasons behind having a daily night curfew and occupancy restrictions as well as now a weekend curfew. Basically, restaurant businesses are completely hit. This is not the best outcome  for anyone in the food and beverage sector.  We were just about getting out of 18 months lull with one good quarter of business. This new lockdown will impact business drastically," he said. 
 
 Deliveries however may get a boost as a result of curfews and lockdowns.  Yet they will not compensate for business loss in dine-ins, Suri said.

 Some restaurants are hoping they would be allowed to operate with some tables around the curbsides of their restaurants so as to be able to still serve their patrons more safely during operable hours. " While we are hopeful of those, we are still bracing for the impact because eventually debilitating the restaurant industry will lead to job losses," said Rakshay Dhariwal, founder of Pass Code Hospitality that runs restaurants like Ping's Café Orient across major metros. "If political rallies are not being curbed, why are restaurants being restricted," he asked questioning the selective lockdowns and restrictions.

Malls, too, are facing the heat. Prior to weekend restrictions, the operational area in mall chains here was already down to about 40%, keeping the odd-even rule in mind where only one set of shops could open on one day and another on the next day. Another 10-15% of space in most malls like the Pacific Group's Pacific Malls is dedicated to cinemas that were ordered to shutter down. "And now with restrictions on Saturday and Sunday, we won’t be able to do more than 20-25% of the business that used to happen," said Abhishek Bansal, executive director, Pacific Group that operates malls in Delhi-NCR. 
 
“Footfalls are visibly down as people have turned cautious. Also, when they know that half the shops are shut, the intent of going out becomes so much lower," he added.

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