Omicron dampens festive spirit, worries hospitality sector

News Network
December 24, 2021

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‘Tis indeed the season to be jolly but the emergence of a new Covid variant and reimposed restrictions in some places just when things were looking up has the hospitality sector– and party-goers hoping to make the most of Christmas and year-end festivities – worried yet again.

Though Christmas lights are up in several cities, the feeling of déjà vu, of another year-end of lengthening Covid shadows – this time of the Omicron variant – has dampened the Yuletide spirit. And while many restaurants and hotels are going ahead with their Christmas and New Year plans, it’s all edged with uncertainty and dread that another wave might be just around the corner.

The party may not go on. But nobody can be sure. Be it Delhi or Mumbai, Kolkata or Bengaluru, optimism for a happy and healthy end to the year clashes with the stress of not really knowing what lies ahead. The mantra, as an industry insider put it, is cautiously optimistic

In the national capital, where the Delhi Disaster Management Authority on Wednesday directed district magistrates to ensure no Christmas and New Year gathering takes place in view of the rising Omicron cases, restaurateurs sought more clarity.

The DDMA order, they said, permits bars and restaurants to operate with up to 50 per cent of seating capacity without specifying whether they can host Christmas and New Year parties.

"Whether we can organise a party or not is a grey area. We hope the government will issue a clarification before December 31," Joy Singh, co-partner of Raasta and Yeti, said.

He said they are opting to be cautious and organise only sit-down lunches and dinners.

A restaurant owner in Khan Market, the buzzing shopping and eating destination in the heart of the city, said this is their turnaround moment but it may not happen.

"We were hoping the (DDMA) order would bring some relief but we will have to settle for 50 per cent of the crowd. Ever since the pandemic, we have been facing issues with lockdown and then the curbs… We understand there is the Omicron threat, but other areas are fully functional, so why to target our industry?"

Sahil Sambhi of the Drunken Botanist, a bar-eatery in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub abutting Delhi, is equally despairing.

“…This is the most rewarding time for the F&B industry. That said, we will abide by the 50 per cent rule strictly and will follow all Covid protocols to the tee. We had planned a few events on the occasion, but I am afraid we have to cancel those now amid the fresh curbs imposed by the state government,” the director of Drunken Botanist said.

Given the escalating number of cases and the fear of another wave, the industry is battling tremendous odds anyway.

According to a survey by English news app Inshorts,  about 63 per cent of Delhi residents said they will "stay at home" while 29 per cent said they would like to be part of "small get-togethers". Of the 15,000 people surveyed, four per cent said they would like to dine out or travel on the occasion.

In Karnataka, the state government has said there will no deejays, no parties from December 31 to January 2. And the 50 per cent cap on occupancy also stands. To add to it, some groups have announced a shutdown on New Year’s Eve to press for a ban on the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which recently allegedly defaced the statue of 19th-century warrior Sangolli Rayanna, in Belagavi.

Chetan Hegde, the owner of 1522- The Pub in the state capital Bengaluru, said business has dipped by 30 to 40 per cent in the last two years.

"We were expecting a good business this year but again the Omicron has surfaced. We are bound by all the restrictions," Hegde said.

"We had sold our tickets online in good numbers but the restrictions came in the last minute,” added Hitesh Tulsani, operations manager of the Raahi Neo Kitchen and Bar in the city.

Tracking the falling numbers during peak season for the business, he said there was a crowd of about 500 people in his restaurant on December 31, 2019. This plunged to only 30 last year. And this year looks dismal too.

The mood is distinctly downcast in Tamil Nadu as well.

Residency Group COO Gopinath B said they are waiting for official communication from the government.

If there is a ban, celebrations will be subdued; if not, New Year’s Eve will be a big celebration, complete with deejays.       

"Covid will not only affect the hospitality industry but also other kinds of industries… We want to be very careful instead of slipping into another mess," he said.

The mood is optimistic but the uncertainty is palpable in Mumbai as well.

"Currently, we are witnessing positive consumer sentiment following pent up demand," said Nikhil Sharma, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Regional Director - Eurasia.

The company's Ramada Plaza Juhu property has been getting over 55 per cent footfalls for the Christmas and New Year period, and these bookings are expected to rise further for this period.
"Mumbai, as a destination, sees last-minute bookings by locals during this period, and we remain cautiously optimistic," Sharma added.

“Business has been encouraging in the last two months and the sentiment for the festive season is very positive,” said Ravi Ramachandran, general manager, Radisson Mumbai, Andheri MIDC.

But the situation could change. At the moment, due to reports on rising Omicron cases in Maharashtra, bookings for New Year celebrations a week away are low and the outlook is not as promising as it seemed at the beginning of the month.

In Kolkata, famous for its year-end festive vibe, the mood is optimistic.

According to Sudesh Poddar, president of the Hotel and Restaurants Association of Eastern India, the threat of Omicron has so far not impacted the hospitality industry in the city and in other parts of West Bengal. "All our restaurants are recording good turnout which is only increasing in the run-up to Christmas. Restaurants will be open till 1 am from December 24 to January 1 and those serving liquor beyond that if permitted by the Excise department,” Poddar, who also runs Songhai and Manthan, said.

Nitin Kothari, the owner of Peter Cat and Mocambo, said the popular eateries have been seeing full houses for the last week. "We have been maintaining all Covid protocols since the restaurants opened after the lockdown. There has been no laxity… we are adhering to the 70 per cent occupancy limit as stipulated by the state."

India recorded 122 cases of the Omicron variant, the highest so far, pushing its tally in the country to 358, according to Union Health Ministry data on Friday. Of these, 114 have either recovered or migrated.

India recorded 6,650 new coronavirus infections, taking its tally of cases to 3,47,72,626.

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News Network
December 7,2022

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Mangaluru, Dec 7: A student of Mangaluru St Aloysius College was found dead on the railway tracks near her home at Kadappura, Kavugoli Chowki in Kasaragod district yesterday.  

The deceased is Anjana K, 22, daughter of Surendran, a resident of Kadappura, Kavugoli Chowki in Kasaragod. She was a first year student of M.Sc. Biochemistry.  

According to her family members, Anjana had slept after dinner on Monday (December 5) night but was missing in the morning. 

When the people started searching for her, they found her mortal remains on the railway tracks a little away from her residence. It is learnt that her mobile phone was also found crushed on the railway tracks.

The exact cause of her death is under investigation, but it is suspected that she could have been hit by a moving train. 

The Kasaragod police who are investigating the case, have handed over Anjana’s body to her family after a post-mortem done at a Kasaragod General Hospital.

On Wednesday, December 7, a condolence service was held at the LCRI block of St Aloysius College. 

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News Network
November 29,2022

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Bengaluru, Nov 29: A 22-year old woman was allegedly raped by a bike taxi driver and his friend, when she had hired the service to get dropped at a friend’s place, police said on Tuesday.

They said the incident is said to have taken place during the intervening night between Friday and Saturday, in the Electronic City Police Station limits.

According to a police source, the victim is from Kerala.

“The woman had hired a ‘Rapido’ bike to go from one friend’s house to another. On the way, the bike driver took advantage and has taken her to his place, where he along with his friend have raped her. There was another woman along with them during the crime, who cooperated and then tried to hush it up,” Bengaluru Police Commissioner Pratap Reddy said.

Speaking to reporters here, he said, as the victim was suffering from pain in her body parts, she visited doctors for medical help on November 26 afternoon, following which the police got the information about the incident that evening.

“Police immediately registered an FIR and swung into action and have arrested all the accused. Also evidence has been collected from the spot with the help of forensic lab experts,” he said, adding that further investigations are on.

According to police, out of two accused- one was a Rapido bike driver and the other worked at a mobile store.

One accused had a criminal case against him in the past.

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News Network
December 8,2022

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With the Congress set to cross the majority mark in the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur Thursday said he respects the mandate and was going to hand over his resignation to the governor. Meanwhile, the BJP conceded defeat in Himachal Pradesh.

"I respect the mandate. In a short while, I am going to hand over my resignation to the governor," Thakur told reporters here.

The Congress on Thursday was set to achieve majority in Himachal Pradesh as it surged ahead of the BJP, winning 16 seats and leading in 23 others.

According to the latest results and trends, the ruling BJP had registered a win on 13 seats and was leading in as many others.

Three Independents have also emerged victorious.
 

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