Mumbaikars with a love for long drives on empty roads at night have for many years enjoyed the clutch of dhabas just outside city limits, along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway. There’s a view, vast seating spaces and the food’s affordable as well as tasty. Now, with discussions underway about allowing establishments, mainly pubs and bars, in non-residential areas to remain open all night, these dhaba owners want to know if they can apply for the all-night licences as well.
“We will know the details only when the law is passed and we begin the all night service, if they allow us to apply for these licences also, but we do expect business to go up,” says Pravin Salvi, marketing manager of the Velkar Farms Dhaba located at the turn where Ghodbunder Road starts.
The happiest among the dhaba owners are those who have an established business already, anyway staying open until the wee hours especially on the weekends. The dhaba owners who are new to the business are somewhat sceptical, the main challenge being security of the premises and guests.
Like Velkar Farms, there are more than 30 restaurants and over 50 small dhabas located along both lanes of the NH-8 stretching from Dahisar Check Post towards Virar. Catering to customers of all age groups, the dhaba owners say that on weekends over 300 people visit each establishment here, a number that could easily double if they are allowed to stay open all night.
The dhaba owners said that many times, the people who visit bars and restaurants in the city and want to drink more alcohol once those places are closed, they head towards the NH-8 dhabas here remain open till 2am.
“We generally serve people who stop by at our establishments who are out on a spin with friends or families for a late night outing. Mostly youngsters are repeat customers who sit at the dhabas till after 1 am,” says Ashu Raina, manager at Daffodils, located in the King’s Court Hotel along the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway.
Raina says that earlier due to lack of security highway robberies were a threat, but the police have now started night patrolling along the highway too, a van passing every three hours. “We see patrol vans till we close for the night. I wonder how police will manage all-night patrolling, they would perhaps be overworked,” says Raina.
The dhaba owners have been doing business on NH-8 for at least the past 10 years, and never before has the prospect of better business been so exciting. “We remain open till 1am at night on weekends and if the law is passed we would be able to make double profit once we get three hours extra,” says Arjun Shetty, co-owner of Kinara Dhaba, one of the oldest and the most popular dhabas along the highway.
Owners say employment opportunities would automatically increase as well. “Many of the waiters and chefs we employ reside in residential areas near Mira Road and Vasai phata. If the policy is passed, more boys and men from those areas can get employment as we would have to employ people in two shifts,” says Manish Kudalkar, owner of an establishment near Vasai phata.