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Shutters Down, Hauz Khas Village Hopes For Better Future

New Delhi:  From a favoured hangout zone buzzing with activity through the day till late at night, Hauz Khas Village is today a shadow of what it was just a week ago.

The deserted streets and shuttered cafe fronts tell their own story — of regulars who may have drifted away to more happening places, employees who suddenly find themselves out of jobs and restaurant owners struggling to find a way out of the crisis.

After the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) sealed 21 restaurants on September 23 for violating pollution norms, the once ‘go-to’ place doesn’t have much to offer and restaurants still in operation say they are suffering.

“It’s not that only business is down, people are under the impression that Hauz Khas Village has shut down,” said Vikram Singh of the Moonshine Cafe and Bar.

The future of HKV, which has over 120 eateries and bars, looks bleak, he said. It will not change unless people know of places that are open.

“Those who step in first ask, is it open? Over the years, even families had started coming to the area. Now most people think the entire Hauz Khas Village is shut,” Mr Singh added.

The sealing drive, which came following an inspection order from a division bench of acting Delhi High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar based on two PILs, has left over 700 people jobless.

According to the petitioners, social activist Pankaj Sharma and advocate Anuja Kapur, many restaurants and bars in the Village have been running without approvals and certificates from authorities like Fire Department.

The court had observed that HKV was a ‘ticking bomb’.

The notice posted outside Wow Momo states lack of “Oil and Grease Trap Cum Settling Tank” and “Channelisation System in the Kitchen” as among the reasons for the restaurant to be sealed.

“Instead of shutting down places, everyone needs to come together to tackle the issues,” said Disha Sukhija, culture manager at Hauz Khas Social.

“You need to give them time and assistance to tackle these issues instead of shutting them down. It’s affecting business, it’s affecting employment. The HKV layout cannot be changed, no one can do anything about the narrow lane. We can only make sure there are security measures,” said Ms Sukhija.

Both Mr Singh and Ms Sukhija are hoping that things will turn, and the situation will get better. But the prognosis is bleak.

“I think the footfall is going to decrease more… It is not a happening place anymore. But at the same time I have some hope. There have been silent protests, there have been people who are opposing what has happened. These restaurants are trying very hard to come back. They have not completely given up,” she said.

Interest might be waning for those who frequented the restaurant and shopping hub till not so long ago and want restaurants to follow basic dos and don’ts.

“Although I go to HKV quite a lot, I feel it has always been overrated. It is a safety nightmare in case of a fire or a stampede, so I think it’s a good thing that the crowd will be thinner now,” said 24-year-old Aparajita.

Hauz Khas Village was once upon a time a literal village (pun intended) — till fashion designer Bina Ramani turned a cow-shed into a boutique called Once Upon a Time in 1987, the first step to HKV finding a spot on Delhi’s happening places map.

For almost two decades it remained the hub of designers, artists and fashion enthusiasts. With the turn of the century, a new breed of entrepreneurs found themselves spearheading another revival of ‘The Village’ with places like The Living Room and Gunpowder.

While The Living Room still operates, other places of its time like Gunpowder have moved on.

From just a village to being The Village, the question of its survival pops up like late summer acne on a teenager’s face. As it has again.