By ANISAH ARIF
Self-proclaimed largest Indian restaurant in the world, has just announced its decision to go alcohol free.
Aakash restaurant, based in Cleckheaton, on Bradford Road, has recently made a big step in to stop serving alcohol to their customers.
The decision comes as owner, Mohammed Munif, suffered a loss when his close friend died from Cancer, as a result of alcohol consumption.
Following this incident, the owner along with the Aakash team wanted to promote a healthier menu and awareness for the use of alcohol.
With the restaurant being under his management for over 12 years, Mr Munif has always pushed the idea of going alcohol free but has never had the right time frame to undergo this transition.
Fawad Shoukat, General Manager of Aakash, said: “We have always thought about going alcohol free on religious grounds for quite a while now, but we have always kept pushing the idea aside, and ignoring it. As a Muslim, we have known that what we are doing is not right, so we have always planned to stop selling alcohol and said in 6 months we will stop, in 3 months we will stop.
“Now, we thought enough is enough. We either stop now or never. So as our New Year resolution, we at Aakash decided to go alcohol free”.
This choice did not go lightly with some as some regular customers were shocked and confused when learning the removal of the bar inside the restaurant.
“I have lost around 50 customers, since Monday, who made 3 big table bookings for work parties. It is a shame and I know that I’ve been losing money, but I will be generating the money through other ways as well”.
Fawad revealed the loss of yearly earnings mount up to 15% after making this huge transition.
However, the marketing and management graduate says he is devising new ideas to boost up his earnings to level up to his previous years.
He said: “We are using new market strategies, to open up new ideas, like revising a new menu with additional grill and healthy options and introducing mocktails, to cover them costs. Another idea we are working on, is a live kitchen, so cooking and preparing the food in front of the customers. This is going to get more customers in, not just from the area, but around Yorkshire”.
The number of alcohol-related deaths has increased over the years.
In 2017, there were 697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population. (Office for National Statistics).
Gov.UK website revealed that in 2016/17 there were 337 thousand estimated hospital admissions where the main reason for admission to hospital was attributable to alcohol, which is 17% higher than 2006/2007.
Almost a quarter of admissions were for cancer.
Alcoholic liver disease accounted for 82% of the 5,507 alcohol-specific deaths. A further 8% were from mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol.
According to the Alcohol UK website, Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factors for deaths, disability and ill-health among 15-49 year olds.
In November, new NHS statistics revealed that almost nine out of 10 adults in England are putting their health at risk, with just 13% leading a lifestyle with no risk factors. Drinking too much alcohol is one of five health markers determining risk, with others including being overweight and smoking.
Fawad says: “Religion aside, humanity should be a priority. One of the main causes of cancer is alcohol. Other restaurants should be following us, and make big changes which would help so many people”.
When asked if the restaurant would go back on his decision, he replied: “We have made the decision now and we are not afraid of anything”.
Being a grade II listing building, Aakash Restaurant can’t make any changes to the format of the building, before getting approval of the council. It was built in 1859 and boasts a ceiling painted with fluffy clouds on a bright-blue sky (Aakash means sky in Urdu).
The famous restaurant shut down in 2006 after it was possessed by the bank, however, was bought by the Manchester property tycoon for £1.7 million.
The famous 5 course Indian buffet, prepared by 5 Star Chef’s, offers over 54 dishes and seats for over 800 people.
There are many other restaurants in Bradford that are also alcohol free: Mumtaz, Omar Khan’s, Lahori Gate, Jinnah, MyLahore, Cona, Classic Persian, Toro’s Steakhouse, etc.
Earlier last year, the government put in motion whether alcohol should be banned in airport restaurants and pubs. Theresa May dismissed the idea that booze would be banned entirely at airports: ““While disruptive or drunk behaviour is unacceptable, we have no intention to ban the consumption of alcohol in airports.
“Most passengers behave responsibly when flying, but the problem of drunk or disruptive passengers has gained prominence in recent years.
“Much of this evidence has been anecdotal, so this is simply a call for evidence which aims to establish the scale of the problem and seek views from the industry and consumers.”
Some people have tried “Dry January” which is a public health campaign urging people to give up alcohol for a month at the start of the New Year.