One night this week at 11pm, a stretch of Bandra that was once buzzing with people, nightlife and cars, was dead. Escobar, until recently the most happening bar in the city, remained shut. A notice stuck on the window declared it had closed “due to a technical error.”
Zenzi, once a popular hang-out for filmi types, models and expats, lies almost empty. The crowd appears to have stopped visiting since the outdoors section was forcibly closed, following a court dispute with a neighbour. Bonobo, only a year and a half old, is shut. Earlier a poster on the lift had stated the bar “had gone on holiday”. Shilpa Shetty’s Royalty hasn’t opened since its launch party. It is understood they had only obtained licenses for the launch party.
Senior police inspector Prakash George said Royalty and Escobar were still waiting for “all their permissions.” Escobar closed down temporarily two weeks ago. According to Damodar Bindal, director of the On Toes restaurant chain, which runs One Above On Toes, in the same building as Escobar, a mob of about 40 residents had stood outside their building on several consecutive nights, two weeks ago, physically preventing cars from entering the lane and stopping valets from parking customers’ cars.
The chaos led to the traffic wardens being called and directing traffic. It was after that that Escobar closed. Disrupting fun “Many cars were violating the one-way restrictions and double-parking on both sides of the lane”, Bindal admits adding, “Bandra is a happening spot and it is dying because of all this. We have valets park the cars in far-off places, but the residents seemed to think we park them on this street.”
“Our customers don’t congregate outside and we tend to wind down at 11.30 pm, but that is the time that Escobar starts,” he states, explaining how One Above On Toes attracts mostly family crowd. Yet he is opposed to any bar being forced to close. “We have all spent so much money on our businesses and getting the right licenses, so if any of us have to close down, it will be a big blow,” he says.
A spokesman for Escobar says they hope to reopen shortly. He says they had closed down to do some work on their interiors, and then remained closed to sort out the traffic and noise problems out. He adds: “We need a few more days to sort this out. It’s an unfortunate scenario and we want to reopen as soon as possible. We opened in a commercial building on a main road. We have to make sure our operations don’t cause any discomfort to anyone in the neighbourhood.”
Partners at Bonobo and Zenzi, failed to respond to our texts or calls. However, Bonobo partner Sahil Timbadia had earlier said they were merely closing for maintenance, and would reopen soon.Hundreds of residents living in the area are campaigning to have all the bars closed or shifted elsewhere.
Anandini Thakoor, chairperson of the H West Citizens Trust, says: “These places should be shifted to a separate zone where they can have all these activities in one place like the Bandra-Kurla Complex, so residents are not kept awake all night.”She adds, “I made a complaint to R R Patil, the state Home Minister, and he asked the social services to monitor them, which they have done. We don’t want these clubs to open up again. The area is already too congested.” But those once frequenting the bars are furious.
“Most of Bandra is like a ghost town”, asserts filmmaker Suparn Verma. A former regular at Zenzi, he rues, “Now I go to house parties. I went to Zenzi recently and it was like a haunted house. “There is nowhere for couples or young people to go in Mumbai. We are killing the city. People work all day till 9pm and the night is the only time they can go out, and yet there is no nightlife.”
Bandra resident Archana Kapadia, another former Zenzoid (frequent Zenzi visitor) is also upset. The 29-year-old photographer says that Bandra residents are creating a row and fuss over nothing at all.
“We live in a noisy city and there is constant noise. You can’t blame a noisy club around your street for disrupting your peace. There is no peace in Mumbai. As far as parking woes go, that is a constant irk in Mumbai at large,” she opines.
Café Goa Bistro and Bar has reportedly also been consistently in trouble. There have been complaints about noise from the residents who stay above it and some have even complained about a rodent menace in the restaurant’s kitchen. Café Goa owners were unavailable for comment.