'Cops are misusing dance floor clause'

There was a time when Mumbai was known for its nightlife. Hundreds would get dressed up, and head to a club or discotheque to dance their night and worries away. But, not anymore. Today, several clubs have had to shut down after facing several losses and fines for overcrowding after the Social Service Branch of the Mumbai police has cracked down on these establishments. And with the situation going from bad to worse, it seems that the city will very soon be without any dance floors, as most pub owners are planning on not acquiring a discotheque licence at all.

Dance by the rules: The 1960 rule penalising overcrowding on the dance floor is mentioned on the premises licence. Representation pic

The Social Service Branch under the guidance of ACP Vasant Dhoble has been raiding several nightspots and fining the owners for overcrowding citing the archaic law of 1960 under which only 10 couples (the number of couples vary as per the size of the club) are allowed on the premises. Following the persecution under this law, a group of hoteliers have written to the Home Minister RR Patil explaining how the law is not only archaic but also how the authorities have been misusing it. Clause 6 of the discotheque licence (see pic) states that ‘The licensee will not admit 10 couples at a time on the discotheque dance floor.’ However, clause 11 of the same licence reads, ‘Customers and patrons themselves are only allowed to dance and at one time there should not be more than 10 couples in the premises.’

Explaining the contradiction, a pub owner said, “We have pointed out that the word premises needs to be altered with dance floor and needs to be defined accurately. Officials from the SS branch keep referring to clause 11 and interpret it wrong and fine us when there are 20 people in the entire club. This is absolutely ridiculous.”

Party is over
Following the confusion over the dance floor and premises issue as mentioned in the licence, hoteliers are planning not to acquire the discotheque licence at all and continue to function as a restaurant. “The clause which the SS branch uses against us was intended to reduce the overcrowding on the dance floor. It is unfair to interpret the floor as the premise. Additionally, this is not applicable to a restaurant or permit room and if we were to give up the discotheque licence, strangely enough, we would be allowed to legally accommodate over 250 persons in the same amount of space. What’s worse is that cops have been misusing this law and extorting money,” said a Bandra-based pub owner.

Kamlesh Barot, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association, Western India (HRA-WI), said, “These archaic laws — rules that were made 50 years ago — need to be amended immediately. Several have been charged under this outdated law and since then many have been running their establishments simply as a permit room.” Baba Siddique, chairman, minority commission, said, “The law should be immediately amended. Loopholes in law will breed corruption. The laws need to be enforced in the right manner.”

Rulebook says
Under the Rules for Licensing and Controlling Places of Public Amusement and Performances for Public Amusement (other than Cinemas) including Melas and Tamashas, 1960 in Greater Bombay, made by the commissioner of police, not more than 10 couples should be allowed on the dance floor. The condition is one of several that licensees must adhere to.

The other side
When MiD DAY contacted the Mumbai police, Nisar Tamboli, the PRO of the city force, said, “It has to be taken as number of couples on the dance floor. Many pub owners do not come to us to seek clarification and hence, create problems.”

Facing the music
June 9: Shiro lounge at Worli, had to face a fine after they did not have the required discotheque licence
June 6: SS officials cracked the whip on Café Zoe in Lower Parel for playing music without the required performance licence
June 5: Owners of Masala Curry, Oshiwara were in trouble after they were caught serving alcohol and playing music without the correct permissions. 

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