“Bottled aerated water is not served till further notice”. This announcement on the door of a Park Street eatery is echoed inside several others, as city restaurants attempt to avoid being drowned in the ongoing cola controversy and weekend diners had to make do with juices and mocktails.
But the fizz is just not dying out of the decision to yank soft drinks bottles off the shelves. The day after there was talk of a Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC)-prompted pullout of colas from Park Street menus, the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India clarified that the move was a “self-regulatory” one and “only influenced by the CMC’s act of picking up samples for testing”.
The decision to scratch out soft drinks — led by Mainland China, on Gurusaday Road — stems from a wariness of getting into an “unnecessary hassle” with the authorities, admitted association president and owner of Amber S.K. Khullar. The rulebook, after all, says the CMC can initiate action against the establishment from which a sample with hazardous ingredients is collected, to the extent of its licence not being renewed.
That is reason enough for most association members to steer clear of the colas. “We don’t manufacture the products, so why risk stocking and serving them when they can land us in trouble'” explained one.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, on his part, said there was no order from the CMC to stop hotels and bars from serving Pepsi, Coca-Cola and the rest. “We have not issued any such fatwa and cannot till the results of the tests are out,” he explained. Officials expect the CMC laboratory to cough up the results by August 20, added CMC officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee.
Sunday night out on Park Street, meanwhile, was not the same for several customers. Missing from the menu were perennial favourites rum-and-coke or vodka-with-orange fizz. “Instead, we are offering a whole lot of fresh juices and mocktails,” said Gautam Chakraborty of Floriana. “People are hardly asking for fizzy drinks any more,” added Sunny Puri of Trincas.
The play-it-safe soft-drinks boycott has spread to movie halls, too. Lighthouse and New Empire have already stopped serving up soft drinks. “We are not selling Pepsi and Coca-Cola products at our halls,” announced John Mantosh. “And it’s not posing a problem, as their demand has gone down dramatically.”