As many as 32 of the 72 dance bars that had applied for fresh licences have failed to comply with the conditions imposed by the police, who may now turn down their requests.
“These bars have not complied with all the 26 (modified) guidelines imposed in the licence. Some have failed to follow conditions such as maintaining a five-foot distance between customers and performance area, while others have not installed CCTV cameras at the entrances,” sources in the Mumbai police said.
In December 2015, the Supreme Court ordered that licences to dance bars must be cleared. Following this, the state government came out with 26 conditions to regulate the functioning of these bars. These included sharing a live feed of the dancing area with the local police station, a ban on serving alcohol in the dancing area and closing the bar at 11.30 pm.
The police issued an order, asking senior police inspectors to conduct an audit of the bars that had applied for licences — under their respective jurisdictions — and verify whether they had followed the conditions. Licences were to be allotted only if the local police issued a positive compliance report.
The auditing procedure met with controversy after it was found that four police officers from as many police stations had prepared false compliance reports. These men — three inspectors and an assistant police inspector (API) — were suspended by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Bar owners challenged the tough conditions, following which the Apex Court struck down conditions such as the ban on serving alcohol in dancing area and sharing live CCTV camera footage, while relaxing some others. In March, three dance bars were issued licenses after they fulfilled those conditions. The order prompted a flood of applications for licences. In the meantime, the state government came out with a special legislation — Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act — making the conditions tougher.
In November last year, the Supreme Court asked the state to consider granting licences to applicants that were at par with the three licenced dance bars.
Following this, the police received 72 applications by February. They are in the process of inspecting the applicants’ premises. “The dance bars will have to comply with the modified guidelines. If they don’t, they will not be considered while we are granting licences,” said a senior official from the licensing branch of Mumbai police, who did not wish to be identified.
The counsel for the dance bar owners’ association in the Supreme Court, advocate Satyajit Shah, told HT that the petition challenging the 2005 ban on dance bars, which was scheduled to be heard on Thursday, will be heard on April 20.