In a historic decision, Supreme Court has allowed dance bars to function in Maharashtra again.…
Mumbai: The loud cheers over the Supreme Court (SC) decision to reopen dance bars in Mumbai seem to be fading into refrains of regret and resentment. The three dance bars, which were the first to get licence almost a month ago, are yet to open their doors because of the “impossible” new Maharashtra government law, say industry insiders.
The Dance Bar Regulation Bill, unanimously passed by the assembly on April 13, among other things prohibits serving liquor in the performance areas and mandates that the premises must close by 11.30 p.m. Worse, say the owners, plainclothes policemen often turn up as customers for surprise check at these bars, which are currently running as standard bars.
“We tried, but it’s not possible under the new stringent law,” said one of the three dance bar owners whose licence was renewed on May 12 after the Supreme Court on May 10 asked the state government to issue licences to eight dance bars. Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad at Andheri and Indiana at Tardeo were given licence upon paying Rs 2 lakh as licence fee.
Apprehending frequent raids, the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (AHAR), which has been fighting the case against the state government, says it is in support of its members restraining from reopening of dance bars.
“No customer can relax at a place where police officials just walk in every now and then. We have got the intentions of the state machinery. They do not want the bars to reopen. Hence, they have come up with such impossible conditions like not allowing liquor in the dance performance area, closing of bars by 11:30 p.m., heavy penalties on the clients for any kind of mishap etc. Who will start a dance bar under such conditions?” asked AHAR president Adarsh Shetty.
While the conditions under the new laws were specified before the issuing of licence, dance bar owners say they were banking on the Supreme Court order that said bars are supposed to run as per old guidelines.
“Government officials accept off the record that they are acting in contempt by imposing new law on us whereas the Supreme Court clearly stated that we should be issued licence as per earlier guidelines. We are waiting for the courts to reopen to clarify the matter,” Shetty added.
However, the state government said the Supreme Court acknowledged the new law and there is no ambiguity on the issue. “Dance bars will only operate under the new law,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had declared in a news conference soon after the Supreme Court order.
Dance bars have been banned in Maharashtra since 2005. According to a rough estimate, state had over 1,500 dance bars, employing 75,000 women dancers. In October 2015, the Supreme Court directed the state government to issue licences and allow dance bars to reopen. However, the government was allowed to act as a regulatory body to contain any kind of “obscenity or exploitation of women”.
“We are perfectly fine with government officials calling us for a discussion and finding a midway. And if they think dances performed by our girls are obscene they must also ban performances by Bollywood actresses in five-star hotels on New Year’s Eve,” Shetty said.
The new Dance Bar Regulation Bill, which has provisions for stringent action against violators, fixes accountability on the owner in case of violation of rules, exploitation of women employees or obscenity. Owners or operators face up to five years of jail and fine up to Rs.25,000 for violations.
ON THE ROCKS
What bar owners oppose:
– Closing gates at 11.30