Govt to biz: Keep open 24/7, Police: Go home at 11 pm

Recently, a hotel body wrote to city police commissioner, demanding a free hand on working hours. The letter was based on an order issued in 2021
Last Updated 26 April 2022, 20:59 IST

Bengaluru restaurateurs’ demand that the police commissioner make it possible for them to function 24/7 is, in reality, a request to him to rein in overzealous men in his force.

A week ago, the Bruhat Bangalore Hotels Association wrote to Kamal Pant, police commissioner, demanding that they be allowed a free hand to decide their working hours. The police haven’t formally responded to the demand.

The letter requests that the police chief help enforce an order issued by the Labour Department on January 2, 2021, allowing commercial establishments with 10 or more employees to stay open 24/7.

The association will meet Pant soon to take the matter forward. P C Rao, president of the association, says, “Restaurants and eateries already have government permission to function till 1 am on all days. However, police officials often shut down establishments across the city by 11 pm. We want to settle this matter so that establishments can function peacefully at night,” he tells Metrolife.

While many restaurateurs might not want to keep their establishments open 24/7, “those who would like to, should have the option to do so. It is an avenue that can be explored and can be very resourceful,” says Rao.

With extended working hours, Rao hopes Bengaluru can develop a safe nightlife like other Indian cities. “This will help boost employment opportunities and help the city cope with the brutal effects of the pandemic,” he says.

On the ground

Kiran Kumar, director of restobar Gawky Goose, says extended hours work, but only for some. “Restaurants will have to hire extra staff for an extra shift,” he says. Bengaluru will welcome late-night dining places, especially with the BPO sector working 24/7, he observes.

Ramamurthy K, owner of Konark Restaurant, Residency Road, is not keen on working beyond 10.30 pm. “We need time to clean the space and our staff should be rested well,” he says.

The city doesn’t have options other than coffee shops and five-star restaurants and the airport for early-morning and late-night travellers, he says. “People elsewhere turn to roadside eateries. Round-the-clock permission will encourage new eateries to offer food from 10 pm to 7 am,” he says.

Mukesh Tolani, co-founder, Toit, Indiranagar, says he will try longer hours for a month to check how it works. “I will have to gauge customer response,” he says.

Amit Ahuja, owner of restaurants Misu, Lucky Chan, and Brassa, would like the closing time, currently 1 am on weekends, extended to 3 am. “Bengaluru’s nightlife can do better, and people will have the liberty to step out a bit late in the night,” he says.

Staff problem

Bengaluru is not a tourist destination where restaurants can benefit from staying open 24/7, says Kiran Reddy, owner of Wanderers, a craft brewery and artisan cafe in Kalyan Nagar. “Peak hours for us are 8-10 pm on weekdays and till 11.30 pm on weekends, after which the crowd dwindles,” he says.

Most corporate professionals are still working in the hybrid mode. So demand for food and beverages after 11 pm dips, he explains.

Many migrant workers who left the city are yet to return. A majority have settled down in their hometowns and the industry is facing a manpower shortage, says Reddy.

‘Won’t extend hours’

Ramamurthy K of Konark Restaurant and Hemamalini Maiya, managing partner of MTR Restaurants, also say getting skilled staff is challenging.

MTR will not extend its working hours even if the 24/7 idea kicks in. “Adding more shifts is not easy,” says Hemamalini. Also idlis, dosas and meals, which is what her restaurant serves, are usually consumed before 10 pm, she says.

While she believes that restaurants serving liquor would benefit from an extension of business hours, working round the clock, she observes, “sounds impractical”.

Darshinis — eateries with stand-up dining and mostly serving south Indian fare — wouldn’t keep open all night, says Krishnamurthy Aithal, proprietor, Hotel Dwaraka, N R Colony.

“We serve tiffin items and have two shifts — 7 am to 12.30 pm and 3.30 to 8.30 pm. Extended hours are welcome and will help many restaurants recover from their losses, but our restaurant model is not suited for it,” he says.

‘Current timings work’

About 50,000 restaurants are part of the Karnataka State Hotel Association, of which 12,000 are in Bengaluru. “Unless your eatery is on a highway, bus station or railway station, operating round the clock is not beneficial,” says Madhukar M Shetty, vice president. Currently, most restaurants run on two shifts, and an extension will need three shifts in place, he says.

“Most city eateries close by 10.30 pm. Keeping places open late comes with its own risks. Restaurants might have to deal with drunkards and hooligans,” he says.

Mukesh Tolani, head of Bengaluru chapter, National Restaurant Association of India, says keeping open throughout the clock won’t work for all restaurants and pubs. “Such an extension would work for some places and some days of the week,” he says.

‘Yet to consider’

A senior police official says that there has to be ‘some order in the society’ and such a request will take time to be considered. “There are many interconnected issues like labour and workers, safety, traffic, which will come up when such a move comes in,” he says. Residents concerns also needs to be considered. He adds that the police isn’t the licensing authority for hotels.

(Published 26 April 2022, 17:48 IST)

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