Mumbai: We pay very high taxes, we do not deserve this harassment, say bar owners

Updated: 18 December, 2019 06:57 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

City bar owners complain to umbrella body about alleged harassment by the police, forcing them to down shutters several hours before normal deadline

Restaurant and bar owners from the western suburbs at the office of the additional commissioner of police in Bandra on Monday. Pic/ Shadab Khan
Restaurant and bar owners from the western suburbs at the office of the additional commissioner of police in Bandra on Monday. Pic/ Shadab Khan

Fed up of the constant harassment meted out by the local police, who allegedly force bars to down shutters hours before deadline, bar and restaurant owners from across the western suburbs have written a letter to the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR). Around 50 such owners from the suburbs have been at loggerheads with the cops, who have denied the allegations levelled against them.

They said the cops come and sit in their bars from 8.30 pm or 9 pm onwards and keep pressurising them to keep an eye on the deadline and sometimes even force them to shut their premises four hours before the deadline. The police have stated that their presence is only to keep an eye on illegal activities and not to shut down bars before deadlines.

In one of the letters, the owner of Lotus Bar and Restaurant Santosh Shetty had stated, "I run a performance restaurant and bar in the jurisdiction of Andheri police station. There is always one constable who comes and sits in my bar from 9 pm and waits till 3 am till the cleaning is finished. When I asked them why they do this, he said it was by the order of higher authorities and the Andheri senior police inspector. If I do not abide by what he says then they file false cases against me.

Because of this pressure, I have to bear heavy losses in my business. Every year, I pay almost R30 lakh in taxes in advance, I do not deserve this harassment."

He added, "In 2015, there was an order from the HC to not post constables inside the premises. The police are violating the law every day and not allowing us to run our business. These days they force us to shut down restaurants by 9 pm," Shetty told mid-day.

Another bar owner Rahul Naik, owner of Classic Bar and Restaurant said, "We have been facing this harassment for the past few months, but the last ten days were the most horrific as the cops started shutting down our businesses at 9 pm. The plainclothes constables are deployed inside and outside the premises till 3 am, not allowing customers to enter the premises even before the deadline. Our businesses are on the verge of collapse yet nobody is listening to us."

Naik said, "The problem is mostly in the western parts. Other regions are also facing some trouble, but not like what is happening with us."

The delegation of orchestra bars and members of AHAR went to meet the additional commissioner of west region Manoj Kumar Sharma on Monday.

The officer spoke to them over the phone as he was busy monitoring the students' protest. The delegation will soon meet the officer with their concerns.

Senior Police Inspector Vijay Belge of Andheri police station said, "We are keeping a watch only on illegal activities inside bars. Our officers never force bars owners to shut their premises before the deadline. All the allegations are baseless."

Another restaurant owner from Bandra, Rajesh Yadav, told mid-day, "The only thing we have been told is that there are instructions from top officers and we will have to down shutters by 9pm, which is generally when we start our businesses in a city like Mumbai."

Senior police officers, however, have claimed that there are no such orders from their end to shut bars prior to deadlines.

While speaking to mid-day Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Vinoy Chaubey said, "I will instruct the west region additional commissioner to look into it and ensure that nobody is troubled, we have been taking action against those who are not following the rules."

AHAR speaks

"There may be a few black sheep, but because of those few the entire business cannot suffer. The Mumbai police is not dealing with this in the right spirit of the law. We have permission to run till 1.30am, but cops are not letting our members run their businesses. They verbally tell us to shut much before the deadline, which is against the law," said AHAR president Santosh Shetty.

Secret police teams sent to check on cops

Earlier, mid-day has reported how cops had been harassing orchestra bar owners, following the diktat from the police chief to ensure that these bars did not function beyond the deadline of 1.30 am.

Later, the commissioner formed a special team to monitor police stations not following the orders. The secret teams carried out raids at several locations in the city where it was found that police stations had not been acting against bars and restaurants.

Following these raids, dozens of officers were suspended or transferred by the police chief.

Year the HC  granted a stay on police dept's order of posting cops inside bars, restaurants 

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First Published: 18 December, 2019 06:50 IST

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