The Supreme Court may have cleared the decks for Mumbai’s dance bars to be back but the state government is doing all it can to throttle the once-vibrant industry by issuing norms that make it almost impossible for such facilities to operate.
The Devendra Fadnavis administration has issued a set of 26 guidelines – including relaying a live feed of the performances to the police control room, four dancers on the stage at a time and five feet distance between the stage and customer seating area– that have irked owners and triggered concern that the government was trying to choke their business.
“The live telecast is an invasion on the privacy for our consumers. No patron will like to be watched,” said Bharat Thakur, who owns a restaurant in Navi Mumbai.
The Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association (AHAR) -- the apex body of hotels -- said the rules seemed to be regressive.
“In Mumbai, we don’t have the luxury of space and this suggested distance between the stage and the customer area will hurt our business. It’s eating up our seating area. Many small premises would not be able to conduct their business,” said Adarsh Shetty, president of AHAR.
But the government is unmoved. On Wednesday, Fadnavis told the assembly his government was against dance bars “in principle”. He also said it would be interesting to see how many people turn up at bars with live feeds.
“Such measures been have adopted to discourage people to go there and maintain law and order,” he said.
Dance bars have a long and torrid history in the state. Once wildly successful, the bars were abruptly banned in 2005, putting thousands of young women out of jobs. The Supreme Court overturned the ban in 2013 – citing that the ban violated bar dancers’ right to earn a livelihood – but Maharashtra quickly amended its laws to clamp the ban a year later.
The top court stayed this law in October and asked the government to process within two weeks all the applications it had received. “We have rejected as many as 34 applications in this regard with valid reasons,” it said.
The state government has already sought an opinion from the advocate general for the new legislation for banning dance bar.