The Social Service branch of the Mumbai police has 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, the police prosecuted around a dozen discs for overcrowding, asking them to cough up fines.
As per the terms, they are eligible to admit only a limited number of couples at a time on the dance floor, depending on its size. Among the prosecuted clubs were Royalty, Rehab, and Hawaiian Shack, all in Bandra, and Trilogy in Santacruz. Fearing that they would be fined heavy sums, many pubs have decided to shut shop for a few days till the drive loses steam.
“Around 11.30 in the night, when the pub is running in full swing, cops entered the premises and claimed that we had violated BMC norms. Ours is a 12,000 sq ft area and they expect that we should let in only 10 couples (20 individuals) in the premises,” said a pub owner who was penalised twice for overcrowding, requesting anonymity. A fine of Rs 5,500 was collected each time.
“I want to know where this law was for the last so many years. Suddenly, one fine day, the cops highlight the terms and conditions mentioned on the licence copy and fine us for overcrowding. This is an age-old law, which needs to be amended. It is difficult for a pub owner to make business if the terms and conditions are to be followed,” the owner added.
Sadhna Lalwani, owner Hawaiian Shack, also prosecuted recently said, “These rules are ancient. They were implemented in 1960 when the places were small. But with international exposure, the premises have been extended and the small clause is no more feasible or logical.” “For the first time the situation has become so bad that we are unable to pay the staff their salaries. The last two weeks were tough for us. The government needs to abolish such impractical rules. People spend so much on ambience, food etc. How can we just allow 10 couples? How will we make business?” she asked.
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
“In case of fire or emergency, overcrowding may lead to a stampede. We cannot take such chances. We have to take action and fine these establishments as per law,” said ACP Vasant Dhoble, Social Service branch.