The last two months have been grim for Mumbais party-goers. The recent raids on bars and pubs as well as homes have created an atmosphere of fear. While the crackdown on some popular haunts were on the basis of overcrowding and absence of liquor permits,others faced action for stocking alcohol above the permissible limit. Add to these the searches that have been undertaken at several pubs to rescue women under the Prevention of Immoral Trafficking Act. Under the collective impact of these happenings,the citys nightlife once famous for being vibrant has taken a blow.
This setback to the party scene is most visible in Bandra,the suburban area with a range of nightlife options. Popular places such as Yellow Tree Cafe and The Big Nasty,Khar,have registered a loss of approximately 35 per cent in recent months. Rehab,which opened in January,was shut down in May after a raid against overcrowding. The citys bars that once shut at 1.30 am,are now asking guests to leave by 12.30 am.
Mumbais nightlife is dead, says Nikhil Bedi,owner of Yellow Tree Cafe. He is bogged down by multiple licences,including permits for liquor and food storage,gas cylinders and valet service,which are now a must to keep the restaurant business afloat. The system needs to be more streamlined and transparent, he says.
Apart from the fear of raids,several restaurants in this crammed city are also facing complaints from the neighbourhood. Poison,now renamed as Royalty,and Escobar both in Bandra shut shop following complaints of noise pollution,disorder and immoral behaviour. Bandra-based school teacher and activist Aaftab Siddiqui,who backed Assistant Commissioner of Police Vasant Dhoble at a protest meet,believes that restaurants are lax in their approach when it comes to maintaining order. When clubs shut at night especially Bandras Hawaiian Shack,Royalty and Elbo Room there are at least 100-150 people on the streets and it is utter chaos, she says,adding,Weve seen people urinate in empty bottles,throw used condoms into residential compounds and take drugs on the streets.
Siddiqui adds that moral policing isnt on their agenda. They want certain boundaries drawn and a good nights sleep. She and fellow citizen activist,Ashoke Pandit,have now filed PILs to know how several bars have procured licences to function. Guests frequenting these restaurants too have a grouse. Since they pay a cover charge and spend quite an amount on food and beverage,they want restaurants and bars to abide by the rules.
Even though bar owners now claim that all their licences are in place and taxes paid up,many revellers are wary of a night-out. Add to this the closing of WTF!
in Khar,a popular establishment,due to issues with the landlord. While its business as usual for its branch in Versova,owner Kishore DF is wondering whether Mumbai is still the city for their business expansion. Our original plan was to open more bars across the city, says Kishore,who also owns The Big Nasty. Were still evaluating what to do. We may open places that focus more on food, he adds.
To end the existing limbo,many suggest an open dialogue between law-enforcers,activists and owners of restaurants and bars. Right now,everyone seems to be acting on half the knowledge they should have about the clubbing scene. The misconception that drugs and music go hand in hand is one such example, says Nisha Harale Bedi,a fashion choreographer who started Mumbai Unite,a Facebook campaign to spread awareness on the situation. We want to be good citizens. However,the police needs to tell us how to do that without raising moral issues, he concludes.