Amid the flurry of initiatives by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government to pitchfork Mumbai into the reckoning as a truly global city, the Mumbai Police has finally cleared the decks for permitting bars, discos and pubs to stay open all night, with the rider that these should not be located in residential areas.
While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had okayed a proposal for all-night cafes and pubs last year following a suggestion from shiv Sena scion Aditya Thackeray, the Mumbai Police had until now stalled the move on the grounds of security concerns.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, who told Newsline on Sunday that the move was cleared by his department about two weeks back, said an international city like Mumbai did indeed require that establishments stay open 24/7. “The proposal was cleared a fortnight ago after we were asked for our opinion by the Tourism Department. We do not have a problem as long as restaurants stay open only in non-residential areas,” Maria told Newsline.
He added that the 40,000-strong Mumbai Police force would be able to manage law and order. “Even with our existing strength, our men are going around checking restaurants each night. Even if restaurants stay open all night, the police should be able to perform its conventional duty. As long as everybody follows the rules, there shouldn’t be a problem,” Maria said.
Aditya Thackeray, president of the Shiv Sena’s youth wing Yuva Sena, had suggested in September 2013 that the BMC, which is controlled by the Sena and BJP, should permit a more vibrant nightlife in the financial capital. Aditya also held a meeting with Mumbai mayor Sunil Prabhu in this regard.
In September 2013, the BMC passed Thackeray’s proposal for 24/7 eateries, chemists and milk shops. The proposal was put forward by independent corporator Makarand Narvekar who is elected from A-ward, which comprises Navy Nagar, Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point and Marine Drive.
Questioning the abysmal state of city’s nightlife, Thackeray had then compared Mumbai with New York, stating that the latter city enjoys a vibrant nightlife even post-9/11.
Thackeray had also asked corporators from Thane and a few other other cities to raise the issue in their respective civic corporations. In addition to amending the Bombay Shops and Establishment Act, 1948, Thackeray’s proposal also suggests amendments to the Bombay Police Act, 1951. After the proposal was passed in the General Body Meeting of the BMC, Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte had forwarded it to the state government for approval.
On Sunday, Aditya Thackeray thanked Maria and the BMC on Twitter for taking the proposal forward. He tweeted, “The next step is to amend the Shops and Establishments Act and the Police Act in the Assembly, for which I shall write to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.”
Emphasising his new concept for Special Entertainment Zones in the city, Thackeray also tweeted, “As per my plan, non-residential areas like Kala Ghoda, Nariman Point, BKC, malls can be special entertainment zones at night.”
At a time we are fighting against BMC for the new parking policy, police have very casually placed another hurdle. Clearing such a proposal would mean residents living in this area will have no peace henceforth. This will only result in further inconvenience as number of cars coming to this area will double. It will also allow shady bars to remain open for a long time and create more nuisance. This is another ploy between the municipal authorities and the police. We will write a letter to the police commissioner tomorrow and fix a meeting with him to discuss this. Subhash Motwani, Member, Clean Heritage Colaba Residents Association
This is a city which has always had a vibrant nightlife and functions 24×7. We had passed the proposal a year ago and we are thankful that the police has okayed it now. It would be impossible to make citizens feel secure without their help during the night. Since residential areas will also not be affected with the implementation of this proposal, I am sure all Mumbaikars and political parties will support our move. Trushna Vishwasrao, Leader of the House in BMC and Shiv Sena corporator
The proposal was passed in the civic body a year back without much discussion as it was mooted by the Sena and had BJP backing. It is now up to the state government and what it wants for the city. Our only contention is that residents should not be affected by this move. If the civic body wants, they can go ahead and give permissions to restaurant-owners in areas like Bandra-Kurla Complex or other commercial areas. If residents get affected, we will definitely stand against the proposal. Sandeep Deshpande, Group leader of MNS in BMC
It is heart-warming to know that the police commissioner has a bigger perspective for the city and we appreciate him for this. Keeping safety at the core, he has permitted establishments to operate in non-residential areas, giving Mumbaikars an opportunity to enjoy nightlife. This also sends out a bold and welcoming message to foreigners visiting the city. This move will go a long way to boost tourism and hospitality and the hotel industry is very thankful to him for his support. We also hope that the government will support this initiative. Bharat Malkani, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI)