NEW DELHI: The city is staring at a dry March and a possible strike by restaurants. Bars and dining places are aggrieved that licence and permit renewals aren’t being cleared, leading to loss of business.The excise department hasn’t issued the transport permit (TP) to many restaurants on the ground that the eating house licence from Delhi Police is necessary for this. But after Delhi changed to the old excise policy, Delhi Police hasn’t cleared any new licences, resulting in no standalone property getting the excise licence for six months now. TimesviewRestaurants were badly hit during the Covid outbreak. In the past few months, business has bounced back. Nonetheless, authorities should ensure that the current bottlenecks are quickly removed. Ease of business is essential for any industry, and consequently the economy, to prosper.The excise licence of all the bars in the city are to be renewed by February 28, but there is no announcement on this.Rahul Singh, restaurateur and former president, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), explained that all excise licence holders in Delhi transacted through the ESCIMS portal. He said that without the TP, no goods could be transported from the wholesale warehouse to the restaurant premises. Effectively this meant no restaurant could place fresh purchase orders on the portal.Restaurateur Kabir Suri, president, NRAI, disclosed that the excise department abruptly stopped issuing TPs a week ago before extending it temporarily till February 25. The excise licence renewals of bars are also coming up this month end. Suri complained that there was no clarity on the deadline or extensions of TPs. This meant no outlet could procure new stocks of liquor. Restaurants, therefore, would have to run without alcohol or make do with whatever was available.Owners of restaurants pointed out that the renewal of TPs and excise licences were delayed because police weren’t issuing the eating house licence. No new excise licence has been issued in Delhi since September, when old excise policy was reimplemented. “Many new projects, almost 70 of them, are awaiting clearance by Delhi Police to be eligible for the excise licence,” said a restaurateur. “Every business-friendly move, from lowering of drinking age and extension of operating hours to ease of licensing, is happening in Noida and Gurgaon, causing big losses for us in Delhi.”Priyank Sukhija, restaurateur and head of NRAI Delhi chapter, was frustrated that several meetings with the lieutenant governor and police had all been in vain. He said in the runup to the G20 summit in the capital, ease of business was promised to restaurants, but nothing has been implemented.Many food outlets are suffering losses and entrepreneurs are, therefore, not signing new properties in this atmosphere of uncertainty, said Suri and Singh. They urged the authorities — Delhi Police and excise department — to help them acquire the eating house licence and excise licence to be able to operate properly.If these are not done soon, the industry plans a strike of restaurants across the city.An excise department official, however, claimed that despite giving the restaurants five months to submit the mandatory documents, they were even now yet to do so. “When the excise regime changed in September, we automatically renewed the licences of hotels, clubs and restaurants on condition that they would submit the municipal corporation’s health trade licence, fire-safety clearance, fire insurance, FSSAI registration and Delhi Police’s eating-house licence in time,” the official said. “Despite giving them five months, many are yet to submit these documents, forcing us to take this action.”The official added that exemption had been given to restaurants that had submitted all other documents except for the eating house licence from Delhi Police. “We know Delhi Police is not issuing the licences to restaurants and this is a genuine problem,” the official said. A senior police officer claimed that all bars and restaurants meeting the laid-down criteria were issued eating-house licenses by Delhi Police.