The owners of several picnic spots near Kolkata who have been battling a surge of cancellations have started receiving bookings again riding a relaxation announced by the state government on weddings.
The owners of picnic spots in North and South 24-Parganas said they were booked for Republic Day and were getting enquiries for January 23 and the last weekend of the month.
The relaxation on weddings has allowed a leeway to many to organise outdoor events, conversations with picnic spot managers suggested.
According to the state government’s rule, weddings are allowed amid the current surge in Covid cases but the number of guests cannot exceed 200 or 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is lower.
Most picnic spot owners said the bookings had started to come in the “past two-three days”.
“After a series of cancellations earlier this month, we have now started receiving calls and bookings, mostly from corporate bodies,” said Aloke Mukherjee, owner of Kamala Gardens, a picnic spot in Thakurpukur on the southwestern fringes of Kolkata spread over eight acres. “The response has been extremely encouraging.”
Around this time of the year, picnic spots around Kolkata usually attract good weekend crowds with several space developers investing in personnel and infrastructure to cater to the demands. Depending on the size of the venue, the rate for a 12-hour booking, from 6am to 6pm, varies between Rs 8,000 and Rs 25,000.
Each booking provides a source of income to multiple people, who are hired to clean utensils, decorate the venue and perform other tasks.
“We are booked on January 23, 26 and 30. This is just a glimmer of hope for us because usually we would remain booked on weekends through most of January and till mid-February,” said Tuhin Hossain, who owns popular picnic spots in Badu in Madhyamgram, on the northern fringes of the city.
“So many lives revolve around a picnic spot, including those who maintain the garden, paint the gates and the grilles, and clear the leftover food. There is a cascading effect when we remain shut for weeks.”
Cancellations began after parties ended on January 2, Sunday, when the state government announced a series of restrictions in an attempt to rein in the third wave of Covid infections.
The relaxation on weddings was announced on January 15.
As there is still uncertainty about reopening, a few picnic spot owners have decided to bench some of the employees.
“The start of 2022 was disastrous. We started receiving calls and bookings on Monday,” said Sovon Sardar, a picnic spot owner in Baruipur, on the southern fringes of the city.
“The relaxation of restrictions has come as a breather for us and for those planning a quick get-together on weekends.”