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Bengaluru’s nightlife has taken a hit after nearly 27 pubs were told to shut down for failing to produce licence to play recorded music or host live bands. While the affected establishments have called the crackdown harsh, police maintains that rules must be adhered to.

ThePrint asks: Police to regulate live bands in Bengaluru pubs: crackdown on crime or nightlife?

It’s the artiste who suffers in the end

Danish Sait
Actor and stand-up comedian

I have performed in many places in Bengaluru and across the country, and let me tell you that people who pay to watch art come for pure entertainment. They don’t have malice in them. They come to encourage art.

In the last five years, we have seen the advent of internet and other forms of social media. This has helped generate a lot of interest in art itself. So, a lot of artistes depend on venues to showcase their talent. It is their bread and butter and such crackdown I think is a crackdown on the nightlife of Bengaluru.

I am not sure what the crime statistics of Bengaluru are, but at the same time I would also like to say that I am not against the demand for licences to help reduce crime. The point I am making is that the way it is being done is not right.

Look at the anger among people over how it is being done. If the venues need to have licences, I don’t think the establishment owners will have an issue. The problem, I am sure, is with the amount they need to cough up for the licence. It is true that safety and security measures should be in place, and many nightclubs tend to overlook such concerns. However, cracking down like this is just bizarre.

A lot of the artistes are independent and trying to gain a footing. If the licence fee is exorbitant, the artiste too will have to pay for it. In the end, it is the artiste who is suffering, right? Look at the match: The ticket for a show would be around Rs 300-400, and then there is a 60:40 split between the venue owners and the performers. Because these artistes are not commercial Bollywood performers, they get just about Rs 1.5 lakh in a month. Now, these artistes may also have to pay a part of this licence fee.

Bengaluru’s art scene is very vibrant and many artistes hope to earn their living with live shows. The city has produced maximum number of stand up comedians in the country. I truly care about art and nothing else. Artistes are suffering and will continue to suffer, and that is the biggest implication.

Bangalore police is for nightlife but within legal limits

T. Suneel Kumar
Police Commissioner, Bengaluru

We are only asking people to follow the law. This is not a crackdown. There is a rule that was formulated in 2005 and all establishments should fall in line with the rule. There is nothing more to it.

We are asking these establishments, who want to host live performances, to apply for a licence with us and seek permission. It is unfair of them to say that they did not get time because we gave them ample time. They were issued notices a month-and-half ago, soon after the Supreme Court gave its verdict.

We have also given them an extension of 15 days. After that, when we found that they have not adhered to it, we have raided them. This licence is also on the lines of what the top court said in terms of safety and security of people. Establishments have to submit certain documents like fire safety compliance certificate, building plan, occupancy certificate and lease agreement. This is to ensure that another tragedy like what we saw in Mumbai does not happen again.

So, when they say that police are not differentiating between what is illegal and legal, we say, do the right thing first.

Whoever plays recorded or live music in their commercial establishment, which may or may not serve alcohol, must realise that their venue is a place of public entertainment. So, we are asking them to take the permission from us to play music, recorded or live, that’s all. We have seen how live bands, where women are being exploited, thrive. We have to crack down on them too and we are doing that. I will assure you that the Bangalore Police is not against the nightlife of the city. If you follow the law, you can enjoy as you like. We are pro-nightlife but within legal limits. If you cross the line, then be ready to face legal action

Police should be more lenient with establishments in older buildings

Viraj Suvarna
Managing Director, Take 5 pub

I think it is a case of both. While police are trying to crack down on crime, their stand is not very helpful to us. They need to be a bit more lenient. Our place, Take 5, is one of the oldest places in Bengaluru and we have been a platform for different artistes for decades.

The problem is that places like ours are housed in very old buildings and many of them do not have an occupancy certificate, which is one of the main requirements to apply for a licence. Before 2004, any two-three storey building did not require an occupancy certificate. Most of the older pubs are located in such buildings.

We have not been able to get these certificates because the fire department will not be able to provide it to us. The building owners too are not prepared to spend money to get these occupancy certificates. We have been a platform for several musicians over the years. Most of us are located in residential areas, and there are issues related to loud music and parking as well. We don’t blame them too. The main issue is to control traffic, and we have taken adequate measures to ensure residents are not disturbed.

We play jazz and blues, and have not received complaints from our neighbours till date. Saturday, we had to cancel a show because the police asked us for a licence and said that we could resume functioning only after getting the same.

We are arranging documents to apply for the licence and would like to meet the Bengaluru Police commissioner to explain our predicament. But again, the issue of the occupancy certificate comes in and there needs to be a solution to it. And, that is why I say that the police could be a bit more lenient with establishments like us who are housed in older buildings in the city.

Authorities, industry experts together should draft a framework

P.K. Mohankumar
Hospitality industry veteran

Authorities need to recognise that music is an integral part of a meal or pub experience. While regulatory measures are essential, they need to distinguish between a live band and a crooner performing in an eatery or a pub. These have to be within certain framework of dress code, timings, and the kind of music being played.

Universally, that’s how popular live music band performances are defined. Government will do well to differentiate between a cabaret or crooners dancing to unrestricted, suggestive numbers, and a live band.

It’s up to the industry and the authorities to sit together and clearly draft a framework for this licence meant for live band performance.

In today’s digital age, authorities can easily use technology to determine if an outlet has violated the guidelines. Any hurried action will send out wrong signals to a majority of genuine law-abiding citizens. This may lead to a huge social media outrage that will only serve to create misconception of unfriendly authorities in a global city. Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Let’s face it. In India, pubs or outlets are now a major source of socialising or entertainment. For the sake of a few isolated instances of violations, this hurried regulation can only lead to one more grouse for thousands of talented migrants adding value to the new economy.

Police are mixing up issues, can’t tell legal from illegal in art & entertainment

Govind Menon
Co-founder, Thaikkudam Bridge, a rock band

It is a monstrous act, and Bengaluru is a city that as a musician I love, respect and always want to move in for the music scene here.

There are a lot of venues – every pub is a venue – and the nightlife is vibrant. Nightlife is a way of life, and is not a bad thing. They (authorities) are portraying nightlife as a crime. It is not a criminal world out there.

They are not even considering that part of the story which involves performers and true connoisseurs of music and art. The point is that police are unable to discern the difference and generalising the entire issue.

This is not going to help the city. People come to relax and have a good time at a club.

I am not against seeking licences or asking establishments to apply, but they should issue notices and give adequate time. Have they done that?

Issuing licences is a precautionary step for safety against crime. Adhering to fire safety measures is fine, but a crackdown is not the answer unless establishments were given time to apply. We only hope that police do not generalise the issue.

Implementation of live-music licences can be done in a phased manner

Rohini Swamy
Associate Editor, ThePrint

Bengaluru’s nightlife has always been a point of debate, right from the 11-pm deadline, which created a huge hue and cry, to the safety of women in the city. Now, the crackdown on places playing live or recorded music, which also serve alcohol, has triggered a massive outrage.

But in between all this outrage, we may be missing the bigger picture.

There are two aspects to this. The Supreme Court ruling on the need to comply with the licences was meant to avert big tragedies like the Mumbai Kamala Mills fire or the Uphaar Cinema fire.

Fire safety and building norms must be followed while applying for a licence, and no establishment dealing with entertainment should take this lightly.

But then, it also comes down to the notices that are sent to pubs and restaurants to obtain these licences. Many say that that the 30-day window is not enough to obtain all the clearances.

There is a need to ensure that places, which violate rules and exploit women by employing them in illegal dance bars or which do not adhere to the fire safety norms, should be shut down.

At the same time, the implementation could be done in a phased manner. That way, the police will have a better control over the issue and Bengalureans can also have a place to chill. After a hard day’s work, a Bengalurean wants to just sit down, listen to a good song, may be have a drink, and end the day on a good note.

Compiled by Rohini Swamy, associate editor at ThePrint

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