The city has had a couple of food streets over the past few years and seen their closures as well. The Gawalmandi food street was shut down after the change of government in 2008, and partially reopened now. The one in Anarkali has never attained the status of a dedicated food street; it is a mix of a business hub and a food court. The recent bomb blasts at this site have deterred the food lovers from coming here.
The last food street to be shut down was the Fort Road food street, located close to the Roshnai Gate in the neighbourhood of the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque. It was inaugurated in 2012 by Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, partly to replace the Gawalmandi Food Street and serve as a new food hub.
However, this time the reason was different. It was taken over from the district government by the Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA) so that it could be repackaged and opened again after doing some homework.
There is no second opinion that the location of Fort Road Food Street is the best in the city to showcase the culture of the city. With historic buildings in the vicinity it may be aptly called the confluence of history and culture.
The question here is why it could not take off earlier despite all these advantages. And secondly why the management thinks it would be a success this time.
The answer comes from Kamran Lashari, DG WCLA, who thinks there was natural decline due to certain reasons such bomb blasts in the city, groundbreaking of Metro Bus related development work which limited accessibility to the place and the state of affairs in the locality and its surroundings. He hopes by February things will improve a lot and there would be a great inflow of people.
The DG is touchy about the lighting and colour schemes in the area and has focused on removing the flaws. The flashy colours used by sponsors do not attract one’s eye and the lighting is such that it obstructs the view of the forms of balconies and arches. He says they are working on this and going to request the government to light up the whole area including the Lahore Fort, Huzoori Bagh and the Badshahi mosque properly. Brighto Paints has agreed to paint the whole food street and Coke is spending above Rs 4 million per year for its upkeep and security, he adds.
On the future course of action, Lashari says they are making the place lively by introducing cultural activities, live performances by artists, introducing tonga rides in the Walled City on Sunday nights, working on holding food festivals and competitions among cooks etc, convincing shopkeepers and restaurant owners to bring down prices, trying to improve accessibility to the area and so on.
Other plans on the card include formation and execution of hygiene codes in the food street. For example, the chefs will be required to wear gloves, clean clothes, hairnets etc and ensure that kitchens are kept clean all the time. Cleanliness will be ensured in the whole area as well. The WCLA has the powers under the law to impose fines and will resort to this if its instructions are not followed, he adds.
Lashari says they have started marketing the food street along with the rehabilitated part of the WalledCity. There are packages under which interested people can be taken on guided tours of the WalledCity which culminate with lunch or dinners at the Fort Road Food Street. The package may cost around Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 with food or Rs 1000 without it, he concludes.