The Supreme Court verdict that heralds the re-opening of Mumbai’s dance bars must be seized as an opportunity for the city. We have long been talking about Mumbai being a world-class destination but in reality, international visitors often face obstacles, which mar the good time that the city has to offer them.
For Mumbaikars, dance bars connote a seedy side of the city, complete with thug connections, but the verdict should be taken as a signal for a sea change in this scenario. With licensing, proper parameters for their functioning, and regulated working hours, there is no reason why dance bars cannot form part of Mumbai’s mainstream nightlife.
The Maharashtra government is typically reacting with caution, promising to study the issue before coming to a decision. Along with proper licensing of the bars, the women should be registered as artistes, with regulated working hours and conditions, and should be given safe working and transportation facilities.
Establishments in areas, which are already on or around popular tourist areas, can take the lead in the transformation of these joints that are practically a byword in Mumbai. There is no reason why the dance bar cannot become the dance lounge.
In fact, Mumbai needs to have designated 24-hr entertainment, food and travel facilities to become a truly international tourist hub. Today, the city’s all-night food scene is very limited, with 24-hour coffee shops tucked away inside 5-star hotels and accessible only to a few. All this needs to be buttressed by a 24-hour public transport system so that the people and tourists are confident of getting back to their homes/hotels. This is the norm in several global cities and Mumbai needs to follow suit if it aspires of the world city label.