Navi Mumbai resident Prajna Rao, 27, remembers what it was like to go out at night about a year ago. “The plans were simple,” says the media professional. “Go out and dance till your feet hurt. By 2 am or 3 am, I’d usually walk out of a club barefoot, my heels in my hands, tired yet exhilarated.”
The official deadline for all nightspots to close has been 1:30 am since 2005. But the deadline wasn’t always strictly enforced. In March 2011, however, Vasant Dhoble took over as the city’s assistant commissioner of police (social services), and he began strictly enforcing this deadline, insiders say. “We have nothing against nightspots; they generate revenue for the government. But we will take action against any club violating the rules,” he told HT.
For a year, Rao says she can’t remember a single night when going dancing was the main priority. “I used to go out dancing about once a month,” she says. “Now, it’s usually an afterthought. We go dancing may be once in two or three months. It’s too much trouble to get dressed up and rush to a nightclub only to have it shut an hour later.”
Currently, six of the city’s most popular clubs — Trilogy and Aurus in Juhu, China House in Santacruz, Enigma in Juhu, Rehab in Bandra and Prive in Colaba are non-operational.
Although the 1:30 am deadline was more lenient than the deadline of 11 pm before 2005, youngsters’ expectations have changed over the past seven years. As they travel and earn more, they want more freedom to decide when to stop partying. Today, the only exceptions to the 1:30 am rule are clubs at five-star hotels, which are still allowed to stay open till 3 am on account of international travellers arriving and leaving at odd hours of the night.
After last Sunday’s raid on a party at Juhu’s Oakwood Premier service apartment building, which ended with 96 youngsters spending up to 12 hours in police detention, owners of clubs still operating, such as Hype, Royalty, Hawaiian Shack and Tryst, have been playing it safe and shutting down at 12.30 am, in order to avoid trouble, say youngsters who’ve been there.
“Footfalls have fallen by about 20% to 30% over the past week,” says Rajiv Tandon, co-owner of the Tryst nightclub at Lower Parel. “People generally work till about 9 pm in Mumbai. By the time they get home, change and get to a nightclub, it’s already nearly midnight. Why would they come to a club for just an hour?” he says.
Tandon feels that the status quo could ruin Mumbai’s once-famed nightlife. “The government should allot us specific partying districts in non-residential areas such as Bandra-Kurla Complex, where the deadlines can be extended,” he says.