• Publish Date: Dec 23 2017 8:46PM
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  • Updated Date: Dec 23 2017 8:46PM

Downtown Cafe at Gojwara is Old Srinagar’s new happening restaurant

Brothers Nadeem and Suhail Bhat are a case study in how motivation, dedication and a dash of entrepreneurial spirit can fashion a success story even under the most trying circumstances.

Their success story is called Downtown Cafe, an elegant 86-seater double-storied multi-cuisine restaurant at Gojwara in the heart of downtown Srinagar. The cafe is only about a month old but it is already making waves, attracting about 100 people every day. “The demand is beyond our expectations,” says Nadeem.

The brothers Bhat realised that “there was no restaurant where families could go have food during the day or late in the evening” and decided to fill the vacuum. “This was the basic idea that we started from. Then we began asking relatives and friends who stay in downtown about it and their responses convinced us to go ahead.”

But there was a big stumbling block in the way: how would they sustain the restaurant in a place that is perpetually troubled and often under restrictions or curfew?

“We gathered some data and it showed there were more days in a year when downtown was closed than when it was open. Then we met the shopkeepers here and asked them about their financial condition,” says Suhail. “We found the economy was hurting from regular shutdowns, but not in terms of principle losses. Despite their shops remaining closed for long periods, they had made some profit, enough to sustain. So, I told my brother let’s go ahead. We put our faith in Allah and today we have a restaurant standing here.”

It’s a big leap of faith, no matter what the data or the shopkeepers say, for downtown, of all places, can be wildly unpredictable. So far, though, it has gone well: there has been shutdown for only one day since the restaurant opened.

Not that the brothers from Frestbal, Pampore, are overly concerned. They say they have the business experience -- from working with their contractor father -- to face the difficult circumstances. It helps, of course, that they seemingly have deep pockets too: their father is a major contractor who was involved with the construction of the valley’s first flyover. 

“The idea that downtown is a bad place for investment is untrue,” says Suhail. “Yes, the place faces frequent shutdowns, but that has little effect on the way people live. Besides, there are challenges in every business. We have this one, and we accept it. Challenges don’t mean that ideas cannot be translated into reality.”