Step out, Mumbai, we're open 24x7!

Updated: Jan 29, 2020, 08:19 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Everyone, including mall owners, retailers, restaurateurs and taxi drivers, left waiting for Mumbaikars to emerge out of their homes at the weekend as Mumbai 24 begins on a muted note

Taxi drivers near High Street Phoenix expected a larger crowd on the first day of Mumbai 24. Pic/Shadab Khan
Taxi drivers near High Street Phoenix expected a larger crowd on the first day of Mumbai 24. Pic/Shadab Khan

In Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray's Worli constituency, most major mills and malls struggled to remain open beyond 2.30 am on the first day of Mumbai 24. Todi Mill, Sun Mill, Mathuradas Mill, and the Phoenix Mall were as good as dead by 2.15 am on Tuesday. At Kamala Mills, which houses the most number of eateries, there was only one eatery open beyond 2 am. Cops kept their watch in the area as usual.

Here's a lowdown of how things transpired on Monday night.

Lights off at Kamala Mills
At 1.30 am, the few people who had emerged on a Monday night were seen leaving. Sports arena Smaaash was dark and outlets of Starbucks, Dirty Buns, Hotel ShangHigh were shut. Ambiguity over whether cars are allowed inside added to the confusion.

All outlets at Atria Mall, like this Starbucks, were shut well before 2 am. Pic/Ashish Raje
All outlets at Atria Mall, like this Starbucks, were shut well before 2 am. Pic/Ashish Raje

Except for Younion, all outlets near Bombay Canteen were shut. Younion had a crowd of around 30 shuffling about well past 2 am.

Kersi Maker, Younion's Head of Operations for West Region, said, "Cost is bound to go up, you have to keep staffing right. I feel that it will take people three to six months to get used to this. The thought behind the plan is good, to make Mumbai vibrant again. But other factors like keeping trains and buses running are important too," he said.

When asked if Kamala Mills faces stronger scrutiny due to the 2017 fire that killed 14, he agreed. He added that Younion would continue to be open every night and will try to offer new things for the segment.

Younion was the only outlet at Kamala Mills that we found open beyond 2 am. Pic/Shadab Khan
Younion was the only outlet at Kamala Mills that we found open beyond 2 am. Pic/Shadab Khan

'Footfall only on weekends'
At 2.21 am, Mathuradas Mill was dark. One of the watchmen said that everything shut after 1 am. Cops in a police jeep entering the mill said that their checks won't be as strict as before as all places have permission to remain open.

"Even if we wanted to check, what do we check? Everything is shut," one of them said. A security guard at High Street Phoenix said that shops were open till 12.30 am and restaurants till 2 am. The mall shut at 2.15 am as its few customers left.

"We thought there'd be more people today but it seems quiet," said Kamlesh Dubey, a taxi driver outside Phoenix. Suresh Pal, another taxi driver, said: "There was a lot of crowd over the weekend. People will come only at the weekend."

Retail shops in Lower Parel's High Street Phoenix were open till 12.30 am and restaurants till 2 am. Pic/Shadab Khan
Retail shops in Lower Parel's High Street Phoenix were open till 12.30 am and restaurants till 2 am. Pic/Shadab Khan

In sharp contrast to a banner saying, 'Now open 24 hours', Worli's Atria mall too shut down by 2.15 am.

"I kept the property open but it is up to the tenants and how they respond to it. It will take time to get them on board," said Kunal Vardhan, the mall's owner. Sun Mill and Todi Mill in Lower Parel too were covered in darkness at 2.30 am.

'Clarify rules on music'
Restaurateur and Younion's owner, Zorawar Kalra, said, "Younion was operational till 2.30 am on Monday. As the current excise policy for liquor remains, we stopped liquor service by 1 am. We do need some clarification on playing music, as we had to stop it. That's also when most people left. But some stayed back after they realised food was still being served."

With regard to his other outlet, Hotel ShangHigh, Kalra said, "We're still figuring things out. We weren't prepared to open ShangHigh as we had to figure out shifts and staff. But we will keep it open till late starting Tuesday-Wednesday night."

'Need to create culture'
Restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani said, "It has been just one day. A culture needs to be created and the entire ecosystem needs to come together. It will take time for it to take root and flourish. People in the business feel like this is a much required thing — but it needs time."

McDonald's (across city)
"McDonald's Republic outlet is not open. Only the ones at Oberoi Mall, Growel's 101 Mall, Infiniti Malls in Andheri and Malad, Phoenix MarketCity, Phoenix Mills and R City Mall are open. We are working to keep our restaurants open for as long as the malls remain open. If they shut, we don't have the option of staying open," said Saurabh Kalra, senior director (strategy and operations), Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd.

'Wait and watch'
Despite factors like it being a Monday night and the month-end, added to the fact that the response on the first day cannot be considered a direct litmus test, and experts insisting on a gestation period and a wait-and-watch approach initiative, it can be safely said that the first night of the ambitious Mumbai 24 project did not have the grand and transformational opening the authorities had envisioned.

Inputs by Karishma Kuenzang

AHAR opposes food trucks

The Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), in a letter written to the civic health department, opposed Mumbai 24's food truck plan. It raised several policy-related issues and demanded that the idea be scrapped as it will affect restaurants near railway stations, ST bus depots and other places that attract tourists. It also pointed out that the plan violates SC and HC orders on hawking and roadside cooking, which are not allowed in the city. "Further, there is the issue of health as running water is required and washing dishes in stagnant water can be harmful to health," said Sukesh Shetty, general secretary of AHAR. He demanded that restaurants near railway stations and tourist spots be allowed to remain open 24x7.

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