â€œPuja outings are planned in advance so if the dry period continues to be long, revelers will be inclined to omit their eating out plans. This year, we had quite a few people cancelling their bookings, preferring to party at home instead,â€ said Kothar
Restaurants in Kolkata are claiming that the business was severely affected by the dry days that fall during During Puja, dropping sales of 20 per cent.
Peeved at being denied puja business, the Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association of Eastern India (HRAEI) has approached the state government to cut down on the number of dry days. While October 20 and 21 were declared dry on account of Durga puja, October 23 and 24 were dry due to Muharram.
The usual long queues in front of restaurants and pubs at Park Street and Esplanade were missing this puja. It was relatively easier to find a seat even at the perennially crowded places like Peter Cat, Mocambo, Bar-B-Q, One Step Up and Mocambo at Park Street, Amber on Bentinck Street and Oh Calcutta! at the Forum mall.
“It was a big blow for the industry since customers generally felt discouraged to visit restaurants. Even though family diners are more common during pujas and the accent is on a good meal, many like to start off with a couple of drinks. The dry period meant our entire liquor sale was wiped out. Even food sales, though it was better than last year, didn’t reach the volume it could have without drinks,” said Nitin Kothari, owner of Peter Cat and Mocambo. Liquor sales contribute 15% of the revenue at these two restaurants.
Amber, too, lost business due to the dry period, said owner Sanjay Khullar. Sagar, another restaurant owned by him was shut down during the pujas. “It was a lean puja, perhaps the worst we have had in recent years. Food sales were good but we lost about 30% of our business. Without liquor it wasn’t feasible to run Sagar so we had to shut it down. On behalf of the restaurant owners’ association, we have approached the state government to consider cutting down the number of dry days,” said Khullar.
Some like Trincas and Oasis on Park Street had opted for a late closure during the pre-puja weekend. Liquor sales picked up but the additional revenue, they claimed was still not enough to make-up for the puja slowdown. “It was disastrous. Customers were clearly disappointed having to wind up their diners without a drink. We lost around 15-20% in terms of sales,” said Dipak Puri, owner of Trincas.
Down the street, Oasis, very also a loser on the revenue front, but the dry period allowed a different set of customers to walk into restaurants, pointed out Pratap Daryanani, owner. “While some our regular patrons stayed away, we had a new set of people coming in. Also, without drinks, the turnover of customers was high which helped business. We opted for a late closing on the pre-puja weekend which offset some of the loss. But during an occasion like the pujas, you are not looking for just profits. These things have to be taken in your stride,” argued Daryanani.
Trincas and Oasis on Park Street opted for a late closure during the pre-puja weekend. Liquor sales picked up but the additional revenue was still not enough to make-up for the puja slowdown.
Restaurant owners are worried about the next pujas. “Puja outings are planned in advance so if the dry period continues to be long, revelers will be inclined to omit their eating out plans. This year, we had quite a few people cancelling their bookings, preferring to party at home instead,” said Kothari.
He argued that restaurants should be kept out of the purview of dry days during festivals. “People who are likely to create trouble never visit upscale restaurants. They would prefer to buy liquor from off-shops,” he pointed.