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Security shadow over New Year spirits

Disha Munshi, who has grown up in Delhi and now works with an information technology firm in Bengaluru, was surprised to see the large number of policemen Wednesday morning on her way to Whitefield.

“I have not seen such unprecedented security on the roads of Bengaluru. It looked like a fortress,” she said.  Three days after an explosion in the city killed a woman, security is tight on the streets of Bengaluru on New Year’s eve, and the hospitality industry could bear the brunt on a day footfall typically peaks.

“Business has been affected in the past few days. Security has been beefed up and all roads are blocked after 5 pm for vehicles. So we could lose prospective customers,” said an executive at Church Street Social, a lounge close to where the explosion occurred.

Drinks, a relatively new pub on MG Road in Bengaluru, will stay shut from late in the evening due to the traffic restrictions. Wanting to play it safe, many restaurants and bars in the city will take their final orders at 11.30 pm.  The Alibi Pub on Church Street, not far from the where the blast took place on Sunday, will have a dry day. “How can we have any celebrations?” asked the manager.

Security has been stepped up in Delhi and the National Capital Region, too, following intelligence inputs about a possible terrorist attack. The city is on ‘red alert’ in anticipation of US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit as well.For others, it is business as usual. The fine dining restaurant on Lavelle Road, Smoke House Deli, for instance, has all its 140 chairs booked for the night. But a manager said he was keeping his fingers crossed. Regaalis, a hotel in the central business district, said it would stay open till 1 am as permitted by the police. Its restaurants, Chaarcoal and La Gardenia, were fully booked.

Security has been stepped up in Delhi and the National Capital Region, too, following intelligence inputs about a possible terrorist attack. The city is on ‘red alert’ in anticipation of US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit as well.

“Business in Bengaluru has plummeted the past few days and it could suffer today as well. Delhi and Mumbai remain quite buoyant though. Although safety is a prime concern, we have seen places completely sold out”, said Riyaaz Amlani, president of the National Restaurant Association of India. At least four large hotel chains Business Standard contacted to assess the mood on New Year’s eve did not reply. In Chennai, the police issued instructions to all hotels and clubs to install closed circuit television cameras at entry points and maintain records of vehicles entering the premises.

To check drunk driving, some hotels in Chennai are even arranging drivers to assist partygoers home. “We are making arrangements to drop guests home in the night as part of security and convenience measures,” said Ranvir Bhandari, regional vice-president (south) and general manager of ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.

ITC Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers, another five-star hotel that runs the Dublin bar is offering the service this year as a programme, “You drink, we drive”.

While the service was there last year also, this time it had caught more attention, said industry sources. The Chennai police commissioner has asked hotels and clubs to arrange such assistance to avoid mishaps, with parking of vehicles on public roads and other violations to be made the hotel management’s responsibility.

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