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HST and liquor laws make profit harder to achieve for Palki Restaurant

Palki Restaurant manager Sharath Vittal (left), and owner Bhupinder Mroke (right), are concerned about declining business on Commercial Drive due to recent regulations. All photos courtesy of Sherry Lu Photography

Palki Restaurant, located on Commercial Drive near Napier, is a newcomer to the Drive, and  manager  Sharath Vittal contacted the Vancouver Observer recently to discuss the impact of the HST and new drinking and driving laws  on his business. Having built a successful restaurant in North Vancouver, which took third place in the Georgia Straight's 2011 Golden Plate awards in the category of Vancouver's Indian restaurants, Palki’s opened Commercial Drive location with high hopes.  He said he seeks to outdo other Indian restaurants by providing ambiance and charm as well as delicious food. 

Before the HST loaded a  7% surcharge on meals in BC, Vittal said things were going well.

The HST was created to stimulate the economy, but Vittal said he worries that the resulting reductions in tipping, alcohol sales and restaurant-goers in general are having the opposite effect, as consumers tighten their belts and less money moves around.

Palki's Peacock Cocktail, a sweet and refreshing blend of citrus and kiwi

Additionally, the new drinking and driving regulations, which can penalize drivers up to $200 in fines plus a three-day driving suspension for blood-alcohol levels of 0.05-0.08, have made drivers  cautious about alcohol consumption. Consequently, Vittal said, Palki has seen a 12% reduction in alcohol sales.

Palki is outfitted with a full bar that is often packed on the weekends

 Palki's has a full bar and a menu of specialty cocktails.  And Vittal said he believes  people need to be responsible when it comes to drinking and driving. He says that alcohol should always be consumed with food, and that restaurants should be responsible for not over-serving their customers.

“To obtain a [liquor] license,” he says, “we have been trained to identify people who have been drinking a lot. Our license says that our main intention has to be [to provide] food. If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not going to eat anything, I’m just going to have alcohol,’ then we don’t serve them.” People come to Palki for the food, he says, and if they want to drink heavily then they usually stay home and call for delivery instead. 

Palki's saag paneer is a fine example of the tasty Indian standby  

 

Although liquor sales are a big part of their revenue, Palki's main draws are its cuisine and decor

 

Vittal believes that other Indian restaurants on the Drive, while affordable, are lacking in the comforts that make customers want to take their time and relax. “We desire to have a sit-down place,” he says, “where people pay the same amount of money, or even cheaper than other places.”

 

Palki offers a relaxed, mellow atmosphere

Although they have been doing good weekend business, Palki is trying hard to fill more of their tables on weekdays. Instead of the $15 lunch special it once had, Palki now offers a daily $9.95 lunch buffet. Promotional prices like these, though not profitable for the restaurant, help it to bring in new customers and build its reputation.

With many restaurateurs on the Drive eyeing their bottom lines, it remains to be seen if the heightened activity of the summer months can help to pull them out of their slump.

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