Kolkatans reclaimed their night the very day the state eased its Covid-induced night restrictions.
The last chicken tandoori came out of the oven of Jai Hind Dhaba on Sarat Bose Road around 3am on Saturday. It was not meant for online delivery. A group of diners, standing around a car, gorged on it as soon as it was served.
The last mojito was stirred at LMNOQ, a new brewpub on Park Street, at 12.30am. The pub was brimming with people pleading for more.
The number of prosecutions for drink driving across the city on Friday, the first night after withdrawal of the night curfew, witnessed a jump. And, not surprisingly, Park Street topped the list of places with the most drink driving prosecutions.
Around 1am, Park Street was buzzing with people and cars. Revellers kept going in and coming out of Roxy and Someplace Else. The lobby of The Park and the area outside the hotel was teeming with young people.
Taxi drivers were upbeat.
“It seemed the clock had turned back to 2019. Footfall jumped by 30 per cent in one day,” said Gaurav Karnani, the owner of Grid, a microbrewery and pub in Topsia.
Grid took orders till midnight on Friday because a nod from the excise department for extended services was yet to reach.
“On Saturday, we will be open till 2am,” said Karnani.
Several other pubs could not serve liquor beyond midnight on Friday for the same reason. Almost all of them had applied for an extension from the excise department.
With dwindling Covid numbers, malls and restaurants had been witnessing a steady surge in footfall from February.
But pubs, lounges and night clubs, which used to thrive on the “late-night crowd”, were left out because of the night curfew.
Before the pandemic, post-10pm was the time when the rush started at these places. On weekends, the party often continued into the wee hours of the next day.
Though other Covid curbs had been gradually relaxed, the night curfew had been there. The timings had been tweaked in the past.
For the first time in two years — the first lockdown started on March 23, 2020 — the night curbs have been completely lifted in Kolkata.
Night curfew was withdrawn on and off for brief periods during festivals and year-ends. There was no night curfew in the state during Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Chhath Puja, Christmas, during Holi and on December 31 and January 1.
“On Friday, people were much more relaxed. Usually, guests who drop in after work on Friday night are in a hurry because of the early closure,” said Varun Mimani of Ozora, a skybar on the 20th floor in Kasba, adjacent to Acropolis Mall.
Dalbinder Singh of Jai Hind Dhaba, the Sarat Bose Road eatery popular for late-night binge, was bustling through the night.
“The most refreshing sight was to see children with their parents,” he said.
The police said they prosecuted 72 motorists on Friday night for driving in a state of intoxication. Police checkpoints were set up at 50 crossings, out of which the maximum number of cases of drink driving were reported at the Park Street and Loudon Street crossing.
“As many as 16 motorists were prosecuted from this stretch. Cases from this area had reduced in the last two years because of the restrictions. But last night the footfall was high, so were the violations,” said an officer of the traffic department.
An officer who was posted on Camac Street on Friday night said many of the motorists who were stopped and made to undergo breathalyser tests had tried to seek excuse of the “first night” after night curfew.
“Some of them said: ‘Dada chhere deen na, shobey to curfew uthlo (Sir, please spare me and consider that the night curfew has just been withdrawn),” said the officer.
Apart from the Park Street-Loudon Street crossing, cases of drink driving under section 185 of the MV Act were also reported at Chingrighata crossing, Hudco crossing, Camac Street crossing, Jadavpur police station crossing and Hiland Park.
In total, 280 persons were prosecuted on Friday night for traffic violations, recording a considerable jump from the previous nights or the nights before, the police said.