Four days ahead of the New Year’s eve, Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh withdrew a permission that allows restaurants and bars in the city to stay open till 5 am on December 31. “We want people to enjoy themselves, but we do not want them to go overboard. The government has left the decision to unit commanders and we feel this is the
best for the security of the city,” he told The Indian Express.
However, this poses a problem for restaurateurs who had already taken bookings for the New Year’s Eve parties. Kabir Luthria has so far refunded over Rs 1 lakh to his customers who no more want to spend 31st on his property, Kino group and Copa. Many of them, he says, are moving to Goa where they can party all night.
To the hospitality industry, which had high hopes after the BMC and the state government seemed keen to revive Mumbai’s nightlife in 2014, Singh’s announcement was much more than a dampener. “The BMC recently spoke of allowing certain eateries to remain open 24X7 and the state government said it will prune the number of licences, permits and NOCs required to open a restaurant from 39 to 19 in the next year. Now signs of any progressive change are lost,” complains Luthria.
With the New Year only a day away, the hospitality industry has a unanimous demand — do away with licence raj and introduce a single-window clearance for opening new eateries.
“The biggest drawback for entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry is that one cannot apply for any of these licences, permits or NOCs until the interiors of the place are complete. This isn’t financially viable because if one has already spent a certain amount in setting up the place and any one of the department decides to withhold permission, the investment goes waste,” says Pankil Shah, co-owner, The Pantry in Kala Ghoda and The Woodside Inn in Colaba. It is in order to avoid such situations that restaurateurs have to resort to pying bribes to babus, often spending as much money obtaining permission as they did in setting up the restaurant.
To make matters worse, many laws pertaining to hospitality spaces are archaic. Luthria points out that according to the law, one cannot open a discotheque that doesn’t serve food because an eating room is compulsory. “Also, there needs to be a partition between the eating room and the permit