Hyderabad pubs are gone on ventilator during the Covid restrictions. Will pubs in Hyderabad survive the Covid-19 second wave? We spoke to a few pub owners and they painted a bleak picture.

In such a scenario, #KhabarLive asked a few pub owners in the city if they can handle another wave. They scraped by during the first wave, but will they be able to repeat the feat? Out of the many sectors which has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the food and beverages industry figures among those which had it worst. Even as the restaurants and pubs in the city were limping back to normalcy after they reopened in October last year, the second wave arrived.

With the virus variants reportedly being more potent this time, the overwhelming number of cases have forced some cities to announce yet another lockdown. In Telangana, the state government has decided to impose a night curfew across the state from 9 pm to 5 am till April 30. Shops, restaurants, bars and establishments will be closed by 8 pm.

In such a scenario, we asked a few pub owners in the city if they can handle another wave. They painted a bleak picture, with mass vaccinations being the only silver lining in the landscape.

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Needless to say, the situation is bad. After the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw business pick up a bit. Since October last year, we were doing 40-50 percent of the business we had before Covid.

We are one of the oldest players in the sector here, and we are burning our pockets to stay afloat. We are trying to make sure that our staff do not lose their livelihoods since they have been with us for a long time. But we might have to reduce their salaries to make sure that the establishments continue to run.

If pubs close down, a large number of people who are connected with pubs — musicians, staff, grocery suppliers — will be affected. Many housekeeping contracts were not renewed last year. Staff like bartenders, chefs, waiters and valet drivers face the threat of losing their jobs.

Our landlords had waived off rent in the first few months of the lockdown last year, but they too are helpless with the nightmare showing up again. Before the pandemic, I was helping out in the operations of around 10 pubs and restrobars in Hyderabad. Now, I am focussing on the ones I own – a bar called Resign in Hitec City and a restrobar in Madhapur called Cock and Bull.

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The situation is grim right now. In February, we saw 20-30 percent dip in sales, but that has escalated to 80 percent now. The second wave is said to be more infectious than the first one and people are scared. Moreover, those falling in the 20-45 years age bracket constitute most of the caseload this time. Incidentally, this age group is our target customer base. The rumours of lockdown too are adding to the general atmosphere of fear. If the government makes a definitive announcement on lockdown, it is going to help us as we will not be opening our properties and bleeding money. In fact, a few of my staff returned to their home towns after the rumours about lockdown spread on social media from February. My landlord was kind and waived off the rent for six months, but it is not possible for him to extend the favour beyond that.

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From the last week of March this year, the footfall came down rapidly every day. We are a revenue-intensive industry and we need large capital to sustain ourselves. We have big kitchen and service teams, drivers, servers and bouncers on our payroll.

Any bar/pub will have a team of at least 40 persons. Now, the only way to deal with this is to reduce our expenses. With no customers coming in, there is no option but to reduce manpower. A few establishments have asked the staff to work on alternate days and take half their salaries.

Business is dead during the daytime and scant in the evenings. Once the revenue numbers fall below the minimum sustainable limit, we have to close our properties and wait for the wave to pass. Pubs were shut for six months and 15 days last year. I do not think many of us can survive if that happens again.

Restaurant and pub owners have dug deep into their pockets to keep the business running and it’s not sustainable strategy in the long run.
Dheeraj Melwani, owner,
Diirrty Martini – Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge. #KhabarLive #hydnews