The Delhi govt lifting some restrictions on restaurants, including on timings, is a good move
Understaffed and underequipped fire service and FSSAI make the problem worse.
A raging contagion like Covid-19 isn’t the most propitious time for freeing up the hospitality sector by allowing restaurants to function 24×7, or allowing liquor service till 1 am. Nevertheless, the Delhi government has done well to ease some restrictions on restaurants in the national capital.
While a restaurant needs a food safety licence from the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), it also must get a health trade licence from the municipal corporation—essentially duplicating the regulatory requirement. Restaurants must also obtain tourism licences, while there are separate permits for indoor and open-air seating.
They must obtain approval for additional dispensing counters, music, etc and comply with rules on store liquor storage. At a time when, business is hit, allowing some easing of regulation is manna.
The Delhi government’s move will allow restaurants to compete with the cloud kitchens that have thrived in the regulatory vacuum for such businesses. But the government must focus on ensuring safety and hygiene compliance—restaurants in Khan Market, Hauz Khas Village (HKV) continue to be fire hazards. In 2019, the NCT government had cancelled the fire safety clearance of 30 restaurants in HKV—despite this 120 eateries continue to operate in a cheek-by-jowl setting.
Understaffed and underequipped fire service and FSSAI make the problem worse. Besides, the distancing needs of pandemic times will also need to be enforced. Greater freedom is good, but enforcement of some rules needs to be tightened.