Explained: The new policy changes to help the restaurant business flourish in Delhi

Restaurants in Delhi have been allowed to operate at all hours of the day, lifting curbs on hours of operations and allowing businesses to set their own schedules.

Over the past month, the Delhi government has made several policy changes to make opening and running businesses easier for restaurateurs. The aim, officials say, is to do away with a lot of “unnecessary” regulation, and promote growth of new business in the city.

What are the changes in regulation so far?

Restaurants in Delhi have been allowed to operate at all hours of the day, lifting curbs on hours of operations and allowing businesses to set their own schedules. Earlier, restaurants without liquor licenses were allowed to operate between 7 am and 11 pm, and those with these licenses were allowed to open till 1 am.

Another relief came in the form of the decision to do away with health trade licenses, issued by the municipal corporations. According to industry insiders, these licenses were not needed since the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India also issued food safety licenses. The move to abolish a license to operate from the police is also under consideration, officials said.

Municipal corporations earned close to Rs 15 crore from health trade licenses last year.

The latest relaxation brought by the Delhi government is that there is now no need to take permission from the tourism department of the government to set up a new restaurant.

Before June 2003, the scheme for granting approvals to restaurants was implemented by the Union Tourism Ministry throughout the country. However, the scheme was discontinued from June 30, 2003, and states were asked to formulate their own guidelines. This scheme was adopted by the Delhi Tourism Department the same year and was formally launched in 2004 for all restaurants having more than 30 seats. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

What is the reason behind the many changes?

Businesses in Delhi, which government officials say is dominated by the service, event and entertainment sector, has been hit badly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While manufacturing was allowed to reopen early on during the lockdown, it was services and entertainment options that remained shut for the longest time in the city.

Government estimates say that 60 per cent of all jobs in Delhi are under the service sector. When industry officials raised these issues with the government, meetings were held between them and officials to understand their demands. A meeting between CM Arvind Kejriwal and the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) was held on October 7, where they raised issues regarding “over regulation” and “license raj”. The CM assured the representatives that their concerns would be addressed.

But this is not the only reason for the changes. For several years now, Delhi has made plans to give more relaxation to restaurants to be able to compete with top cities across the world in terms of entertainment options and eating out. Experts have pointed out that if more business establishments are open late into the night, it will also increase the safety perception of the city, which is seen as among the most dangerous for women in the country.

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