Restaurant, Pub Owners in Bengaluru: ‘It’s Ridiculously Hard For Us to Obtain License’
The city’s nightlife is under threat thanks to red tapism and a new mandatory permit
Last week, Mumbai band Ladies Compartment was scheduled to perform at Bflat Bar Brookefiled in Bengaluru. When the group arrived at the venue, they were informed the gig was cancelled. “The drum kit, sound console and a speaker were seized and taken to the [police] station,” says Ladies Compartment drummer Aarifah Rebello.
As luck would have it, city-based musician Akshay Deokuliar offered to host a house gig for Ladies Compartment the same night. “These guys just called at 8 pm and said they want to do a gig and I was like, ‘For sure’,” he says.
In the past two weeks, Bengaluru authorities have been serving notices to pubs and venues. The focal point of the issue is the Public Entertainment License (PEL). To obtain this license, venues need to get six clearances, one which includes the Occupancy Certificate (OC). Nikhil Barua, founder of Bengaluru music venue The Humming Tree, says, “It’s the responsibility of the building owner to get the OC and 90 percent of the buildings in Bangalore don’t have them.”
Barua explains that the scope of the PEL is wide-ranging—it applied to live music as well as recorded music played at clubs, pubs and venues across Bengaluru. “Technically even Gold’s Gym cannot play music,” he says.
Bengaluru-based advocate and artist manager Sandhya Surendran explains that if the builder hasn’t received this OC, the chances of the tenant procuring the same is negligible. She says, “The problem with this licensing condition is that now, the onus to obtain this OC – which is actually the builder’s/the owner’s – has shifted on to the tenant, which is unfair to say the least and pretty much impossible, given that there would ideally be a time period within which the OC is issued.”
What has made matters worse is the involvement of resident welfare association in the city. Surendran says, “The have picked up on the ‘noise pollution’ aspect and are making it about how “peaceful lives” are being disrupted. The hypocrisy behind these statements is loud and obnoxious, because these residents have taken advantage of the high commercial value that these businesses have brought to their respective properties, and did not object or lay down conditions when they signed their first commercial lease, but are now twisting the story around to make these legitimate law-abiding businesses look like places that encourage “immoral” activities like “partying and drinking.”’
Since RWAs will most definitely object to any OC pleas, Barua feels it would be good to have two separate licenses for live music and recorded music. “They have made it ridiculously hard and they have encompassed all these things under one gambit,” he says, adding, “It is unfortunate because it sets us in the view of the public as these bad people who are trying to make money.”
Last weekend, many of Bengaluru’s nightlife stakeholders gathered at Vapour to discuss the consequences of the ruling and the way forward for venues and artists. Says Barua, “A lot of people in Bangalore don’t understand what this is about and they don’t understand how severely this will affect them.” He says that this ban on music will have a snowball effect. “No one is going to go to a bar on a Friday night and sit down and not have any music, it’s quite a dangerous precedent.”
Bengaluru police have now served final notices to all venues that haven’t got their licenses and if found defaulting will be charged with a criminal offense. Barua informs currently pub and restaurant owners are putting in place a call for action with requests for a legislation that venues in Bengaluru can work with.