SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The ban on indoor dining that started Saturday in San Francisco couldn’t come at a worse time for Indian restaurants.
Saturday marked the start of Diwali, the most important holiday for Hindus and Indian-Americans. Diwali is a celebration of lights and lasts for five days.
New Delhi restaurant, near Union Square, was expecting to be very busy having booked many reservations from families who wanted to celebrate Diwali.
Instead of preparing the food, restaurant staff spent the past couple of days canceling reservations.
“The timing, I think nobody really paid attention to small business — Indian businesses — that it has played havoc,” said Ranjan Dey, owner of New Delhi restaurant.
Dey said Diwali typically is one of the busiest times for his establishment. He thought the celebration might give them a big financial boost after eight tough months of coronavirus closures and restrictions.
“The ‘festival of light,’ sadly, this is one of the saddest Diwali, where I can’t see any light. It’s one of the toughest moments for us,” Dey said.
The indoor ban meant his large restaurant will remain empty and there’s no room for outdoor dining on his block. The staff he had brought back once again was laid off and extra food he purchased for holiday rush will be donated.
From Steve Jobs to former president Bill Clinton, this immigrant-owned restaurant has hosted people of all backgrounds but this San Francisco institution is now in danger of closing.
“We are the only Indian business and the only Indian restaurant on the legacy businesses registry (in San Francisco,)” Dey said.
New Delhi is not alone. Most Indian restaurants are feeling the pain.
“At the moment of time, yes, we are going through a crisis. There’s no double about it,” said Rocky Misquita with Deccan Spice Indian restaurant in San Francisco.
Deccan Splice was hoping many of its cancellations would turn into take-outs so the food won’t be wasted. They have three outdoor tables but most people don’t want to eat in the rain and cold.
“We have lost at lease 40 to 50 percent of the business — that’s a huge revenue loss,” Misquita said.
As for Dey, he’s hoping the community will help lift him out of darkness.
“I’m slowly dying. I don’t have Covid but this is what it’s doing to me and the hospitality community,” Dey said.
New Delhi remains open for pickup and delivery orders.