Night restrictions will start at midnight, instead of 11pm, starting Wednesday, a notification issued by the state government on Monday said.
The curbs will be in place till 5am, like before.
Restaurateurs welcomed the decision, saying the leeway meant they could go back to the pre-Covid timings.
The reduction of the duration of the night restrictions also gives more breathing space to pubs, lounge bars and nightclubs, where the maximum business was generated after 10pm on weekends before the pandemic.
“Movement of people and vehicles and public gatherings of any kind shall now be prohibited between 12 midnight and 5am. Only essential and emergency services shall be permitted,” said the order, signed by the chief secretary.
On January 31, a Nabanna notification said the night curfew would start at 11pm, instead of 10pm, and continue till 5am. The same order also increased from 50 to 75 per cent the capacity at which restaurants and cinemas could operate.
The latest notification, however, does not mention anything about the occupancy at restaurants, which the previous order had pegged at 75 per cent. Restaurant owners said they would go by the 75 per cent cap.
“It is a welcome move. I am quite happy,” Nitin Kothari, owner of Mocambo, Peter Cat and Peter Hu? told The Telegraph.
“I hope this brings back the old times,” said Rajiv Kothari, owner of Bar-B-Q.
Before the pandemic, restaurants in the Park Street belt would take last orders around 11.15pm and close at midnight, on weekdays as well as on weekends.
On festive occasions, the places would remain open till 1am or 2am after taking permission from the excise department.
Night clubs, pubs and lounge bars, which have struggled to stay afloat because of repeated night curbs over the past two years, are banking on the relaxations to draw patrons.
Unlike restaurants, these places used to remain open well beyond midnight on weekends. On weekdays, most places served patrons till midnight.
“Before the pandemic, the best business was between 10.30pm and 1.30am on weekends,” said Gaurav Karnani, owner of The Grid, a microbrewery and pub in Topsia in southeast Kolkata.
“The relaxation is a progressive decision. I hope for a restrictions-free Bengal in March.”
In the first two weeks of January, when the fresh set of curbs were imposed to check the third wave of Covid infections, restaurants were deserted throughout the day. But a dip in the number of cases and the gradual relaxations brought people back.
Anirban Sengupta, an owner of What’s Up! Café, a rooftop lounge on Southern Avenue in south Kolkata, said he had been witnessing a quantum jump in footfall since February 1.
Before the pandemic, the place used to remain open till midnight on weekdays and Sunday, till 1am on Saturday and till 2am during festivities.
“The fear driven by Omicron (the coronavirus variant that drove the third wave) is now gone. Revenge consumption is back. The new relaxation is an excellent move for the industry. It will further boost business,” said Sengupta.
“We welcome the decision. We expect this decision to propel the sector to the pre-pandemic days,” said Suresh Poddar, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India.
In late January, the association had written to the state government, seeking relaxations in the night curbs.