There will be a thousand things that the year 2010 will be remembered for. And one of those many will be of how the city’s nightlife has been affected; especially in the queen of the suburbs — Bandra. The crackdown on the suburb, which had transformed into a nightlife destination, came as a result of resident agitations. They took it upon themselves to police their surroundings, and get rid of partying spots. According to them they couldn’t handle the brunt of loud music and wild nights as even police complaints went unanswered.
The first nightclub to face their wrath was Royalty. The joint, located on Waterfield Road, earlier housed Poison before it was sold to Shilpa Shetty and husband Raj Kundra by DJ Aqueel. It all began when the celebrity couple decided to throw a lavish opening party. Incidentally it took place during the Indian Premiere League (IPL) and cricketers from the Shetty-Kundra owned Rajasthan Royals were in town. Presumably the party began late. Celebrities continued to walk in through the night, leaving their vehicles parked all over the street, causing traffic jams and discomfort to the residents. Trouble took a nasty turn next morning as the neighbours filed an official complaint with the Bandra police. It has been close to a year now, and there is still no sign of Royalty opening.
Next in line was Bandra’s famous watering hole Zenzi, also situated on Waterfield Road. Arif Ali, who stays in the building that the pub is situated in, filed a plea in the Bombay High Court complaining against the noise levels. The plea also stated that the outer area of the club, was constructed on illegal property. Thereafter, only certain portions of the place were open to the public. Soon after, another court order followed and the pub was closed down. After a protracted court battle, Zenzi reopened its doors to the public just a couple of days ago. Says an angry Ali, “I don’t understand why the BMC and police have given permission to the nightclub to reopen when the city is on a high terror alert. They should have at least taken into consideration the fact that the place creates so much noise and causes trouble to neighbours.” He adds that the nightclub is still flouting rules, “The High Court has stated that an open space cannot be used for seating. Zenzi is still uses it.”
In the same month, April, Bandra’s Escobar shut down. The reason — neighbours. It was around this time that numerous stories began circulating as reasons for the sudden crackdown. They ranged from mishaps in elevators to patrons driving their cars into no parking zones. But a spokesperson from the club refutes these rumours: “We were closed because of parking issues. The traffic situation under our building used to get out of hand. Now we have purchased an exclusive parking lot. We have also increased the number of butlers to 25. They can help traffic move smoothly on Linking Road, whether we are in business or not. This is something we want to give back to society.” After about six months, the place opened again. Around the same time another pub called On Toes, located in the same building as Escobar, also made it in the news.
This pub also situated on Linking Road shut shop in May, barely within a year of it’s opening. Home Minister RR Patil reportedly passed the order for this shutdown, himself. Once again, it were the irate neighbours who forced the club to shut shop. The place reopened with a low-key bash in July. Since parking was the point of contention, the owners employed additional bouncers and valet parking staff.
Situated near Bandra’s Mount Mary’s steps, this restaurant-bar also came in the news for the wrong reasons. The owners of the joint got into a spat with the residents from the building that it is located in. This time, it was not the traffic or the noise, but the levels of hygiene. According to them the lack of an organised disposal system led to a massive influx of rodents into the building.
Other nightclubs, which have been dealing with similar issues, include The Elbo Room, Hawaiian Shack and Firangi Pani. The ‘nightlife resistance movement’ against Bandra nightclubs began about two years ago. One of the first steps from the resident’s side was the organisation of the ALM or Advanced Locality Management bodies.
The 33rd Road Khar ALM that represents 38 buildings is one such body that has been in the forefront. Says Aftab Siddiqui, a member, who is also the chairperson of the Linking Road Forum, “We are not against nightlife in the city. That has become part of society these days. We are against the way these nightspots conduct business.” Siddiqui goes on to talk about how the police and clubs work hand in hand. “The police know exactly what is happening. They lay the blame on the BMC and vice versa. We are residents, we can’t be policing our neighbourhoods and doing our jobs at the same time. The police use manipulative tactics to fool us.”