The party’s over

Government and police directives are overwhelming the city’s already stricken nightlife

Written by Saritha Rai | Published: August 12, 2013 3:52 am

Government and police directives are overwhelming the city’s already stricken nightlife

It has been two weekends since Bangalore Police ordered that the city’s pubs,bars and lounges switch off loud music at 10 pm. Police officials have apparently just woken up to and are quoting a 2005 Supreme Court order that bans loud music in open places after 10 in the night.

Last weekend,hordes of customers departed en masse at 10 pm when Vishal Nagpal turned off the music at his open-on-two-sides microbrewery pub’s third level,and started playing it at ambient levels inside the closed sections. Nagpal’s Biere Club in the upscale Lavelle Road is not the only one afflicted by the newly enforced old rule.

As pubs and bars across the city capitulate,Bangalore’s young population is seething over yet another move to crush the city’s nightlife. The previous BJP government,during whose infamous watch women pub-goers were targeted,was routed in the recent assembly elections. When the Congress government took over,the city’s young population had been hopeful that nightlife in the city would improve.

“The USP of Bangalore,because of its fantastic weather,is the open air spaces in bars and restaurants,” said Prateek Khandelwal,27,who runs a company that exports premium granites. Bangalore is the only big Indian city where patrons can enjoy outdoor dining 365 evenings a year. Like the Biere Club,dozens of pubs and lounge bars have outdoor sections that up Bangalore’s cool factor. Skyye Bar,located in the UB City mall in the same neighbourhood,for instance,boasts of an open-to-the-sky dance floor. The city’s nightspots buzz when the working population descends to unwind.

Some years ago,a previous government had passed an order that many call the Cinderella Rule. That rule,requiring all pubs and bars to shut down at 11.30 pm,had badly hit the city that works late. Workers of software firms and multinational BPO centres can only reach a restaurant or a lounge after 8.30 or 9 pm. Bangalore had just made peace with that forced curfew,but endless government and police directives are overwhelming the already stricken nightlife.

Manu Chandra,chef of a chain of smart restaurants and bars in the city,put it eloquently on social media. “Dear Bangalore authorities,” he said. “You’ll raise liquor prices by up to 40 per cent soon (making it the most expensive state). You’ll ban music in bars and restaurants from 10 pm. The (11.30pm) deadline,ridiculous as it is,stays in place. The excise licences cost upwards of a crore. Food costs have gone through the roof,as have rentals,and the falling rupee doesn’t help. Why don’t you just go ahead and ban restaurants and bars altogether? No more moral policing or ‘law and order’ situations to deal with.”

Many citizens have come face to face with Bangalore’s rules under rather grotty conditions. A BPO worker who wanted to be referred to by only her first name,Malini,said she and her friends suffered the ignominy of being driven out of a Koramangala pub by the local police a half-hour before deadline. “Even my parents,who enforced strict curfews when I was growing up,did not make me feel so wretched,” said Malini.

The nightlife rules seem completely out of sync with the city’s liberal,international image. Bangalore is widely regarded as a progressive,cosmopolitan Indian city. Young Indians flock here for higher education and jobs. There is a boom of new-generation startups seeded in the city and Bangalore’s bubbling entrepreneurial ecosystem is attracting startups from elsewhere,too. In recent years,a small flood of expatriate professionals has descended on the city,lured by its tag as India’s most liveable metropolis. It is a global city where people work hard and party even harder,said Khandelwal,the granite exporter. “Then why do we have medieval rules that keep us cooped up indoors?” he asked.

The regressive rules that Bangalore’s successive governments and officials have brought in have effectively shrunk the duration that people can socialise in restaurants and bars to a two-three hour window in the evenings. “It is too short a time to make a business like ours viable,” said Siddharth Poojari,owner of the upscale City Bar. Poojari asked,“If a city like Chennai has bars open until 4 am and hotel coffee shops there can serve alcohol 24×7 without any law and order issues,what stops Bangalore?”

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

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