Mumbai: Bandra nightclub Drops' eating license cancelled by BMC
Civic body cancels health licence of club for failure to provide required documents for basement it has been operating out of since 2006
After allowing a nightclub to operate out of a basement on Bandra's Waterfield Road for more than a decade, the BMC has dropped a bombshell on it. The civic body cancelled the eating house licence of posh club, Drop, for running in a basement without the necessary permission from the Fire Department. Now, senior officials are questioning how the club was ever allowed to open underground when this is against the rules.
Drop was originally launched by the name Poison in 2006, and was owned by actor Salman Khan then. It has changed several hands and is currently owned by Prashant Gunjalkar.
Back in February 2006, the BMC's health licence (also known as eating house licence) and chief fire officer's NOC was granted to Aura Entertainment and Leisure Private Limited for Poison. However, this year, when H-West ward officials conducted two inspections — on January 9 and October 6 —the club management could not furnish the NOC. Following this, the BMC cancelled the licence on December 3.
What this means is that the club can no longer serve food in the establishment. While Sharad Ugade, assistant municipal commissioner of H-West ward was unavailable for comment, civic officials said that they will inform the Excise Department and the police about the cancellation of Drop's eating house licence, since a restaurant needs the permit even to serve liquor to customers.
The BMC's report stated that apart from failing to produce a fire compliance certificate, the club had no fire exit in the kitchen, which was operating in a non-licenced area. The team also found 27 hookah pots and 23 hookah pipes, as well as metal cylinders. "The pub has a capacity to host 300-400 people. Especially after what happened at Kamala Mills, a pub that doesn't have fire department's NOC is a hazard for people. If a fire occurs, evacuating patrons will be problem," said another civic official.
Basement never allowed
Interestingly, senior officials from the BMC's building proposal department and the fire brigade suspect that the club's original permissions may not have been completely above board either. Based on documents available with the BMC, the night club operates 25 feet underground in a double-height basement (regular basement's are 12 feet deep). It's spread out over 8,000 square feet and can accommodate 300-400 people.
"Norms of the Development Plan (DP) 1991 clearly state that basements can only be used for storage, parking or for utilities like a sewage treatment plant or generator. In certain cases, hospitals are given permission to operate machines that emit radiation. But a basement is never allowed for habitable purposes," said an official from the fire department.
Officials added that in the past, permission was given in select cases for basement areas to function as studios or as a storage unit. "The current Development Control Regulations [of DP 2034] state that basements can be used as a play area for a school or an office space, after ensuring sufficient fire safety measures. But pubs don't fall under this category," said another official from the BMC's Building Proposal department.
The other side
Amit Sapre, who has been the architect of the club since 2006, said it has complied with all the norms and had all the necessary permissions when it first opened. He added that no gas cylinders are used and food would be prepared on induction cooking appliances. "Approval was taken in 2005 as a discotheque, when it was known as Poison. The double-height basement was counted in FSI 1.5 as per the rules, and the use was approved by the then municipal commissioner," he said.
Sapre further cited a circular that he claimed allowed the pub to function in the basement. "There was a circular from the UD department before 2003 which said that if the basement is counted as FSI, subject to fire compliance, it can be used for any use that is permissible on the ground floor. The CFO had approved it then, and granted NOC to run a discotheque in the basement," he said.
The architect claimed that following the fire at Kamala Mills, the CFO changed the norms. "Our contention is that Drop is a running establishment, which at a point of time was legal. To now change the rules and tell us that we can no longer run a business, isn't fair," he said. Sapre added that they have approached the deputy municipal commissioner (zone 3) to appeal against the cancellation of the licence on Thursday.
"Before a health licence is cancelled, a show cause notice is issued. But the notice was served straight away, without giving us a hearing. If the BMC doesn't restore our health licence then we will have to explore legal options and press for damage," he said. However, officials from the DP department said that they were unaware of the circular Sapre was referring to. "Prior to 2012, the basement was considered free of FSI. Regardless, any habitable activity cannot be conducted in the basement for safety reasons," said an official from the Building Proposal department.
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