If after a long hard day at work, you like to unwind at a night out with your friends is your idea of unwinding, then it might be a while before you get to do so. The recent spate of incidents where the Mumbai police has raided pubs, detained party revellers and forced roadside eateries to down shutters may compel you to stay within the four walls of your house. The city’s once throbbing nightlife, which has often attracted tourists from far and wide, is dying a slow death, thanks to the state government’s and police officials’ belief in antiquated laws, which are more than five decades old.
The party is over!
Sample this. Less than a week ago, on May 20, the Mumbai police busted a high-profile rave party at a plush hotel in Juhu and rounded up 96 people, including two Indian Premier league players. Less than a fortnight ago, the Social Service branch of the Mumbai police revived an ancient law to come down heavily on pubs and discos in the city for overcrowding the dance floor. Citing violation of the terms and conditions mentioned on the premises’ licence as per a rule framed in 1960, which stated that pubs and restaurants can allow only 10 couples, the police fined around a dozen discs. Pubs like Royalty, Rehab, and Hawaiian Shack, all in Bandra, and Trilogy in Santacruz were asked to cough up fines for overcrowding. While some of them paid the sum, others like Rehab and Trilogy, fearing that they would be fined heavy sums, decided to shut shop for a few days till the drive lost steam.
A hotel director from Juhu, who was a victim of the cops’ high-handedness said, on condition of anonymity, “Outdated and ancient laws have become a fighting sword for cops. They are booking anyone and everyone under this law. The state government needs to amend these laws and frame them in context of the present. Since the pubs were booked under charges of overcrowding, the footfall has gone down drastically. Our daily income too has gone down drastically by almost 85 percent. It is becoming difficult for us to retain staff, as we are unable to pay them salary. It is high time the government wakes up or else it will be too difficult for us to sustain.” The cops’ move prompted discotheque owners to meet Home Minister RR Patil on May 22 with a request to alter the overcrowding law.
On April 29, the Mumbai police raided Madness, a pub in Khar after receiving a tip-off about a flesh trade racket operational there, and detained 28 people, including 16 girls. Assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble of the Social Service branch, who headed the raid, said that the cops decided to take action after they were tipped off about a prostitution racket being run at the pub. However, families of most of the detainees claimed they were just college students or housewives from working class families who had gone to the pub to party.
Illegal parking not allowed
If you thought that the cops had trained their sights only restaurants and pubs, then you are wrong. On April 15, ACP Dhoble, along with his entourage of 8-10 men, who were in civilian dressing, stormed into popular roadside eatery Amar Juice Centre in Vile Parle at 9.50 pm. They allegedly assaulted the staff in front of the clientele. This was captured live on CCTV camera installed at the eatery.
Tushar Joshi, owner of Amar Juice Centre, said, “The state government should allow eateries near hospitals, stations and airports to operate till late, as a common man cannot afford to eat at five-star hotels. If the country’s capital can have Khau Galli, which is open the whole night, then why can’t Mumbai have one? Earlier, Mumbai was known as the city that never sleeps, but that is no longer the case. Now people think twice before venturing out. You never know when authorities from the regional transport office (RTO) will tow your vehicle or when cops will nab you for not having a drinking permit. Why can’t we have designated parking space for eateries especially on weekends.”
The SSB has raided more than 150 bars in the last 10 months. This has not only caused outrage amongst restaurant and bar owners but even the common man. A campaign on social networking website Facebook called Dhoble: Oppressor of the Innocent Public today has 21,113 members who allege that the ACP is an oppressor.
Late night curfew
In March this year, police commissioner Arup Patnaik wrote to the state government that 14 city pubs, which enjoyed the privilege of remaining open till 3 am by virtue of being inside 5-star hotels, should fall in with the regular 1.30 am deadline in order to avoid brawls. Patnaik’s campaign to force these 5-star pubs to shut early came in the wake of the brawl between actor Shah Rukh Khan and director Shirish Kunder at actor Sanjay Dutt’s party, which took place on January 29 at popular Juhu nightspot Aurus.
Mid-DAY had reported earlier over how over 100 pubs and beer shops had shut down this year when it came to light that license owners did not approach the excise department to renew their licence by March 31, the last date for renewal, due to these restrictions.
Restaurant owners and event managers are of the opinion that the government needs to get into damage control mode before it is too late. Ramji Gulati, partner of Rich Boys entertainment private limited that organises events at Mumbai’s leading clubs and five-star hotels, said, “I have been in this industry for seven years and we have never faced such a dull scenario. People from neighbouring states used to come to Mumbai on weekends just to enjoy the nightlife but slowly and steadily we are losing them. Five-star hotels that were earlier open till 3 am have recently stopped operating till late. In Delhi, clubs are on till the wee hours of the morning, but for the past few months Mumbai’s nightlife is dead. The government needs to act before it is too late.”
A Bandra resident and member of All India Youth Congress
“Sixty eight per cent of the population in Mumbai comprises youngsters, yet they continue to suffer. People talk about overcrowding in pubs. What about overcrowding in buses and trains? The government must understand that a stampede can take place anywhere. The tourism and excise industries make a major contribution to the state revenue, but with these restrictions, Mumbaiites are bearing the brunt. If the government and the police continue to impose restrictions, then it won’t be late before the youth of Mumbai take to the roads with a huge rally.”
Subhash Desai, a Vile Parle resident
“Why can’t there be clear laws and policies not just for the public but even for the bureaucrats and police officials, so that we are no longer exploited by them? On the one hand, they talk about modernisation, but on the other hand, they do not want to amend their ancient laws. If they can’t change, then they cannot expect the youth to change. Let them impose their old laws, we will keep breaking them.”
Cracking the whip
May 20, 2012: Rave party busted at Hotel Oakwood Premiere, Juhu.
58 boys and 38 girls were detained from the spot, which included IPL cricketers and TV actors
April 29, 2012:The police raided Madness pub in Khar after receiving a tip-off about a flesh trade racket operational there, and
detained 16 girls
April 15, 2012: Assistant Commissioner of Police Vasant Dhoble of the Social Service branch arrived at Amar Juice Centre in Vile Parle with 8-10 men in tow and allegedly assaulted the staff during peak business hours (9.50 pm) in front of the clientele. The incident was captured on the CCTV camera installed
April 2, 2012: While conducting a surprise check at Zaza restaurant at Bandra Reclamation, the Social Service branch of Mumbai police found a hookah bar operating out of the establishment. Among the patrons rounded up was allegedly state health minister Suresh Shetty’s son Kshitij
January 29, 2012: Shah Rukh Khan and Shirish Kunder exchanged blowsat the Agneepath success party at Aurus Pub in Juhu
August 2011: Hotel Sea Princess, Juhu, moved court after Trilogy Bar & Lounge was not allowed to remain open beyond 1.30 am