Pandemic curbs prove death knell for auditoriums

Illustration for The Hiindu  

For nearly four decades, AJ Hall has remained a landmark for the busy Kaloor Junction in Kochi.

A much sought-after facility during normal times for as diverse functions as weddings to conventions, it is now facing an unprecedented crisis since its inception in 1984 thanks to the pandemic-induced restrictions and lockdowns.

From clocking an average of 10 functions a month and employing eight staffers, the numbers have now dropped mostly to zero since the pandemic erupted last year to three salaried employees. While the monthly operational expenses might have halved from the previous ₹80,000, even that has to be borne out of pocket leaving the situation untenable.

“During the first lockdown, we were approached for taking the hall on lease, which we turned down hoping things would improve. Now, we rue it, and any such offer may have to be readily accepted considering the way things are,” said Narayanan Namboodiri, manager of the hall.

With the organisation of events involving large-scale assembly of people remains a distant possibility as life alternates between lockdowns, auditorium operators are toying with conversion, lease, or even a permanent shutdown as possible alternatives.

Khadeeja, a small auditorium at Aluva in Ernakulam, is now being run meeting the annual maintenance expense of ₹1.50 lakh to ₹2 lakh out of pocket. “There had been countless cancellations since last year. Until vaccination is intensified making normal life possible, business is unlikely to improve. Eventually, we may have to convert it into lodgings or godowns,” said M.D. Koyakutty, owner of the hall.

It was two years ago that the Kaliman Vyavasaya Sahakarana Sangham gave a facelift to a part of its over 50-year-old dilapidated building at Thripunithura in Ernakulam district and converted it into a medium-size hall for holding functions at a reasonable rate.

“That it entailed no massive investments and the maintenance cost is also relatively less is what keeps us going though the loss of income is a definite concern,” said Reghu P.V. of the Sangham.

Then there are the likes of Pranavam Hall at Vennala in Kochi, which had a narrow escape leasing out the space to an educational institution just in the nick of time. The last of its 755 marriages in its 21 years of existence was held on February 20 last year, just a month before Kerala reported its first COVID-19 case.

“We took the decision for want of parking space. But in hindsight, that proved prophetic, as we would have been forced into that decision anyway considering how things panned out since then,” said Haridas K., manager of the hall.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 2:25:35 PM |

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