The city that goes to sleep early now might be waking up to a good night’s revelry if the Maharashtra Excise Department’s proposal to extend bar closing hours to a 3 am deadline goes through. And while the move awaits a nod from the State Cabinet, city restaurateurs and others from the hospitality industry are vigorously nodding their approval.
Conservatives may argue that longer drinking hours imply a higher alcoholism rate and unruly drunken behaviour, but those like Tom Cherian, co-owner of Worli hotspot Ghetto, are confident that it will lead to the contrary. “Early deadlines mean lesser time to drink and that equates to longer time spent on binge drinking. The benefits of pushing the deadline will be tremendous. We’ll finally have a real reason to call Mumbai a global city,” says Cherian.
Manager of Bandra’s popular Elbow Room Rajesh Sharma says, “Finally someone is standing up for the bar owners. Restaurants and night clubs essentially function at night, and early deadlines are very bad for business.” He adds that with most international flights landing at night, there is a huge demand for after-hours leisure spots to unwind at. “Revenue will increase for both small business owners and the state.”
In 2005, the city started going to sleep at 1.30 am as per the deadline. Since then, the hotel industry has been pressing for an extension. “A lot of our clients are office-goers, who manage to arrive by 10 pm or even later. This gives them an hour or two to unwind, since we have to follow our last order call at 12.30 am. It’s harsh to give plastic glasses to someone who has just enjoyed their first drink after a dog day’s work,” says Anup Gandhi of Bonobo in Bandra.
Doing away with the 1.30 am Cinderella limit means good news financially and physically. “With bars shutting early, people are forced to look for alternatives to smuggle in alcohol. This, more often than not, ends up being spurious liquor, which is harmful,” says Cherian. Shailesh Agarwal, who owns On Toes in Andheri, chips in, “There is good news for everyone. With the extended work hours, restaurants will have to introduce more shifts, which means increased opportunity for employment.”
The live music scene in the city should also receive a shot in the arm. Says Dhruv Ghanekar, co-owner of Blue Frog in Lower Parel, “If the deadline is extended, we can plan longer music nights and line-up more artistes. Else we’re working with a very short timeline and have a limited number of performances. Also, since most people only manage to get to the venue late, bands that perform early have no audience.” With inputs from Rochelle Pinto.