In the conflict between the residents of Bandra and bar owners, the bartenders at the affected venues are caught in the crossfire. Residents are looking to shut down the ’burb’s nightlife, citing issues of noise pollution, traffic snares and moral corruption.
While some bartenders have returned to their hometowns, or are looking for new jobs, bars like Bonobo have chosen to retain their staff until further notice. However, given the situation has already gone on for three months, they are unsure of how much longer they will last.
Tushar Gharad, bartender at one of the Bandra joints that was forced to shut, says, "Many of the boys on staff are supporting their families. In fact, one is about to become a father. He is extremely worried and doesn’t know how he will manage if this situation gets worse."
Shatbi Basu, beverage consultant for some of the Bandra bars, says, "The boys are worried because they are losing out on tips. Just their salaries are never enough."
While Gharad is still on the bar’s payroll, he insists that money is not the only problem. "After our hotel management courses, working at the bar has helped us learn many new techniques. These problems will hamper our career."
He insists that the residents are exaggerating the problems, adding that he has never spotted any drunken customer initiating fights or vomiting on the streets. "We have bouncers who control the crowds and valets who bring guests’ cars within a few minutes. We have never experienced a fight at our bar. It is professionally run," he insists.
Gharad is backed by Pravin Shirke, senior bartender at Elbo Room, one of the residents forums’ newer targets. "I have never seen a fight in my eight months of working at Elbo room," he insists. "We follow all the rules, close by 1.30 am and don’t serve alcohol to anyone below 21. So why are we being asked to shut down?"
His manager, Rajesh Sharma, adds, "Reports say that patrons sit on the walls of our bar and fight. But we have wooden pickets around the bar, not walls. How can anybody sit there?"