HT Special: Mumbai restaurants, malls don’t remain open 24x7
A drive through Mumbai’s streets over the weekend, the time where the city lets its hair down, showed that food joints, malls and shops down their shutters at midnightmumbai Updated: Feb 08, 2018 00:37 IST
A month ago, the Maharashtra government fulfilled Mumbai’s dream -- allowed shops, malls, restaurants that don’t serve alcohol and other establishments to remain open 24x7.
Does that mean the city now shops, eats and dines after midnight? A drive through Mumbai’s streets over the weekend, the time where the city lets its hair down, showed that food joints, malls and shops down their shutters at midnight. Reason: owners say the cost incurred on keeping the establishments open till early morning is more than the revenues they would earn. Some have extended their working hours, but only for the weekends, when the footfall is higher.
In December 2017, the state amended the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Service Condition) Act 2017, and issued a notification allowing shops, malls, restaurants, and eateries to remain open 24x7. The notification excluded pubs, bars, discotheques, and restaurants that serve alcohol, which currently have a time restriction of 1.30 am, or 3.30 am, depending on the nature of licences they own.
HT reporters travelled to Bandra, Andheri, Khar, Juhu, Santacruz, Goregaon, Oshiwara, Lower Parel, Worli, Churchgate, Fort, and Colaba between 12am and 4am on Saturday and Sunday night. Here’s what we saw -- all shops, except 24X7 medical stores, food joints, and eateries closed down latest by 1.30am. A party scene, however, was witnessed in pubs and bars that served alcohol illegally upto 6am, 3 to 4 hours beyond their curfew.
Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, who is pushing the idea of a vibrant nightlife for Mumbai, said, “My nightlife concept does not include pubs and bars. It is about cafes, gyms, food trucks, eateries, that too in non-residential areas such as Lower Parel’s mill compounds. What is licensed during the day cannot be illegal at night. Currently Mumbai is open anyway, but citizens go to shady places, instead of good ones. Mumbai’s identity is that of a safe city, so why not use it?”
THE PRICE TO PAY
According to restaurateurs, places that serve alcohol get business through the night. Santosh Shetty, president of Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), said, “The late night option is okay for eateries around railway stations or the airport, but it is not profitable otherwise. Late nights mean more employment, security and lighting. Even if 10 people come to the restaurant, the entire apparatus has to work for it. This can be profitable on weekends, not through the week.”
Anurag Rane, owner of Bhookha Beardo, a food-only restaurant in uptown Bandra, said, “Whether the overnight-dine-out facility will work depends on the locality and time of the week. It is not profitable. The setup cost is too much, and profit margins are low. On the weekend, people tend to stay out late, and drink first. They then turn to good restaurants to eat. It could work on such days.”
Dilip Datwani, president of Hotels and Restaurant Association of Western India, said, “We have been pushing for bars to remain open till 3am. This will give a boost to our food business. Overstepping the curfew is illegal for bars, but it can easily be legalised and regulated.”
Owners of pubs and bars, however, have mixed feelings about late night permits. An owner of a high end discotheque in Andheri, who did not wish to be named, said, “If pubs are allowed to stay open through the night, we will do great business. But there is a flip side to it -- facilitating security. When there is alcohol and dancing involved, we need a lot of security to manage an intoxicated crowd, and the onus of the crowd’s safety is on the bar owner. I am not sure I would opt for a late-night licence.”
Mumbai’s young crowd, mostly the target group for restaurants, wants more places in the city to be open overnight, regardless of whether they serve alcohol or not. Jaimini Das, 24, who works with a corporate firm, said, “It would be great if food joints and bars are open till late in the night. Mumbaiites actually venture out at night looking for places to eat and relax. However, police naka-bandis should be stricter for drink driving, and residential areas should be kept out. This can boost the local economy.”
Rohan Haval, 34, who works with an event management firm, said, “Bars and pubs stay open till late regardless of the law. A lot of money changes hands to facilitate this. By allowing this, the government can earn through licences.”