Please assign a menu to the primary menu location under menu


Hit by outbreak, life comes ‘Full Circle’ for iconic New Delhi bookstore

NEW DELHI: Cakes, coffee, and conversations — that’s what Pallavi Singh says she will miss most about Full Circle, a famous bookstore and eatery nestled in the heart of New Delhi’s iconic Khan Market, which has been forced to shut shop due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak wreaking havoc across India and its capital.“I used to visit Full Circle once or twice a month. My friends and I have spent many evenings there, discussing life and literature at its coffee shop, Cafe Turtle. I cannot believe it is closing down,” Singh, 32, a Delhi-based writer and researcher, told Arab News on Saturday.The popular hangout, which Singh used to travel nearly 20 kilometers to visit every month, is among travel guide Lonely Planet India’s “must-visit places” in New Delhi and takes pride of place at Khan Market, too. However, due to low sales and spiraling costs, its owner said last week that the bookstore and coffee house was shutting after 22 years in business.“It was a particularly difficult decision for us to make, since running the bookshop was not a mere business for my family, but a way of living,” Priyanka Malhotra, who is the second generation in her family to manage Full Circle, told Arab News.Malhotra is one of several traders who said they had no option but to pull down the shutters during the “overwhelming and uncertain times.”“Many landlords and tenants have come to satisfactory agreements, wherein the former waived off the rent for the lockdown period and agreed to reduced rents post lockdown. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come to a resolution that would allow us to sustain operating out of a retail space such as Khan Market,” she said about the area, which has been listed by global property consultant, Cushman & Wakefield, as one of the 20 most expensive retail locations in the world, with a retail value of $243/sq ft.The shopping center was originally built to house refugees migrating to India after the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.Named after and in honor of Abdul Jabbar Khan, a brother of popular Pashtun leader and freedom fighter Abdul Ghaffar Khan — also known as “Frontier Gandhi” for his nonviolent way of struggle in the erstwhile North West Frontier Province (NWFP) — the Khan Market, over the years, has emerged as one of the most sought-after destinations in Delhi.A majority of the 80 shops in the area are owned by businesses serving exotic Asian cuisine. There are, however, a few grocery stores in the area too, which are considered expensive when compared to other markets in Delhi.However, the two-month lockdown and a June 3 directive issued by the government for the reopening of malls, shops and restaurants, resulted in four other renowned shops, besides Full Circle, closing within a week of reopening on June 8.“Not more than 50 percent of the seating capacity shall be permitted in a restaurant,” one of the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry said.These include Sidewok, a 16-year-old Asian cuisine restaurant, and Smokey’s BBQ and Grill, a regular on the fast food scene in the area after opening its doors to residents six years ago.Neither of the owners of the two stores was available for comment when contacted by Arab News. However, a Sidewok employee said the “high rent was the main issue” for the closure of the restaurant.“The government guidelines say that a restaurant cannot utilize more than 50 percent of its total seating capacity and this regulation makes it difficult for any restaurant to sustain the business,” he said.With half the seats empty, it meant a 50 percent cut in profits too.“It is a tough situation for both shopkeepers and the landlords now. Many landlords are dependent on rent to sustain themselves, and they cannot negotiate beyond a point,” Sanjeev Mehra, president of the Traders Association of Khan Market told Arab News, before adding that getting things on track was a work in progress.“Some landlords have negotiated the rent agreement anew, and some are in the process of doing so. The eateries find it difficult to sustain because they have to operate with half the eating capacity, and they have a time limit of 9 p.m. However, I don’t think one should question the future of Khan Market,” he said.It is little consolation for regular customers with an emotional attachment to the place, who said that things would “never be the same again.”“It is regrettable that some of the places which I used to visit with my friends have closed down. Going to Khan Market will never be the same experience again,” Yashi Raj, a student, told Arab News.Singh agrees, reminiscing about the time spent in the company of great friends, coffee and conversations.“With Full Circle closing down, it’s like a part of my life spent at the place is gone, too.”

Leave a Reply

× 5 = 35

error: Content is protected !!