We have bomb blasts and bad infrastructure, but the government is busy banning dancing and music at nightspots. What’s going on?
KILLED BY LIVE BANDS
The first blow to Bangalore’s afterhours scene was the 11.30 pm deadline which, police say, was due to safety concerns. Then came the second blow — singing and dancing was disallowed at places that serve alcohol. Finally, any place of public entertainment playing ‘loud’ music was asked to shut shop.
Bangalore now finds itself held to ransom by the banned live band association, which wants to be allowed to function in the city. Its stand is bolstered by a law that equates dance bars and prostitution to clubs, restaurants and practically any place playing music, serving alcohol and where people shake a leg. Ergo, no live bands, no nightclubs either. That’s the stand the authorities have chosen to take.
GOING BY THE LAW
A lot has been said about the Karnataka Police Act 2005 and the application of the law that terms clubs and pubs illegal. The law describes three forms of entertainment:
• Live band: A place of public entertainment where music — live or recorded — is played, with or without people singing or dancing or the existence of ‘cabaret’ or both.
• Cabaret: A form of dance performed in a place of public entertainment by dancers or artistes or any other person as part of musical entertainment.
• Discotheque: A facility provided at a place of public entertainment to customers or persons singing or dancing of whatever form or both.
CHANGE THE LAW
Going by these clauses, any form of singing or dancing at places of ‘public entertainment’ — from theatres, restaurants to fast food joints — can termed illegal. No wonder the police are going berserk shutting down any place that offers entertainment of any sort.
“Just like you can’t equate a pickpocket to a murderer and the IPC has various sections for different crimes, you can’t treat restaurants and clubs the same way you treat dance bars,” says Ashish Kothare, joint managing director of a city nightclub. “The government must reconsider the law and rephrase it to suit every vertical,” he says,
adding, “We’re also against dance bars and rave parties.”
LICENCE TO RAID
The police commissioner has retorted, saying that any joint can operate after obtaining a licence. But club owners counter that — since the law was made to put curbs on live bands, obtaining a licence is near impossible. “With over 20 NOCs from various government departments and rules like leaving 10x10 ft for parking and fire exits and noise levels left to the interpretation of the cops — all framed with the intention of stopping live bands from starting business — we can’t get permission to operate. Even if you have a licence, the police can still raid your establishment,” says Ashish.
Says Amardipta Biswas, who owns a lounge bar in Goa, “In other cities — Mumbai, Delhi or Chennai — the rules are strict and clear. You can serve liquor 24/7 if you obtain the right licence. You can dance if you don’t play loud music outdoors
and disturb the neighbours. In some foreign cities, nightlife is concentrated in one area, which is constantly under police surveillance. In the day, it functions like any other business street.”
Enough is enough, the people of Bangalore have said and protested the absurd rules. In reaction to this protest and reports of police harassment, commissioner Shankar Bidari said, “The government isn’t run for the businesses of a few persons, it’s for the welfare of society.” So, BT asked Bangaloreans — not the “few business persons” but a crosssection — what issues they would like the government to focus on. The findings show that regulating nightlife isn’t a public concern (see box).
The police say they’re following and enforcing the Karnataka Excise Act of 1965 and another city-specific order brought out in 2005 to clamp down on places of public entertainment by insisting on licences. The fact is, they are also invoking the Karnataka Police Act, which allows them to raid any establishment that remains open after 11.30 pm, citing law and order.
But here is what former policemen have to say:
Youngsters easily outnumber older people in this city. While the police must enforce the existing rules, they should also consider suitable amendments, keeping in mind the lack of entertainment options for youth. They need some relaxation at the end of a working day.
BN Garudachar, former director general and inspector
general of police
The police act applies to all businesses and if an establishment has to stay open beyond 11.30 pm, it has to get the licence from the police. But the stand some police officers have taken on this issue is not right as they are trying to curb the nightlife of the city. In such a situation, the crime rate will only rise — contrary to their perception.
SN Borkar, former state DGP
No licence to chill
The police has asked clubs and discos to apply for a fresh licence in order to function. But it’s so wrapped in red tape, there’s no hope of dancing and music being restored
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