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High court lifeline for walled-up Waldorf

On Wednesday morning, when Waldorf was walled off, gloom consumed the old faithfuls of the Chinese eatery and all of Calcutta’s food street. Two days later, the 55-year-old restaurant on Park Street — a must-stop for Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, and a favourite of Shyam Benegal’s — was granted a new lease of life.

An interim order passed by Justice Samaresh Banerjee and Justice S.P. Talukdar of Calcutta High Court has restrained Magma Leasing from “changing the nature and character of the property and creating any third-party interest”. The order debars the company from demolishing the building or renting it out to a third party.

Clutching on to the high court lifeline, Waldorf owner Charles Mantosh said: “We hope to return to Calcutta one of its favourite dining haunts soon.”

Even if the present premises can’t be rescued from the legal tangle, the restaurant management said it will scout for property in the vicinity to bring Waldorf back on stream “at the earliest”, for the sake of its 70-odd workers and die-hard patrons.

Magma Leasing had earlier obtained an eviction order from the Supreme Court and taken possession of the 24B, Park Street premises with the help of a 250-strong police force, as the first step to constructing a commercial highrise on the spot.

After the matter was disposed by the Supreme Court, the Waldorf management detected that Magma Leasing, which was seeking to put the decree into execution, was not the owner of the premises and that Celica Developers Pvt Ltd was the actual owner. Accordingly, the restaurant filed a suit in the city civil court, but by then Magma Leasing had moved to evict Waldorf from the premises.

The restaurant management filed another appeal for a direction that Waldorf be put back in possession. Friday’s interim order by the high court bench restraining Magma Leasing comes in the wake of that plea. Whether Waldorf will get back possession of the premises will be considered on May 8. Advocates David Mantosh, Raja Mantosh and Juthi Banerjee appeared as counsel for Waldorf.

The employees, 35 of whom were arrested on Wednesday morning while resisting the eviction drive, are all padded up for Waldorf’s second innings. “We will continue the fight to wrest back possession, for the sake of our families,” says Noor Mohammad, general secretary of the Citu-affiliated City Eating and Refreshment Establishment Workers’ Union, who has been serving up the popular grilled crab and other delicacies since 1964.

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