Establishment owners are receiving letters from the Commissioner, directing them to apply for a license to play live or recorded music.

Bluru polices drive to regulate entertainment faces opposition from pub owners artistsImage for representation/ Humming Tree
news Regulation Friday, June 15, 2018 - 15:28

After the licencing requirements that Bengaluru's establishments have to adhere to came into effect in January, the Bengaluru police are on a drive to regulate all forms of entertainment at restaurants and pubs in the city.

Owners of establishments that serve food and beverages in the city are receiving letters from Bengaluru Commissioner T Suneel Kumar, directing them to apply for a license to play live or recorded music at their establishment. Few pub owners received notices as early as March, while few others told TNM that they received their notices earlier this month.

The notices were sent to them after the Supreme Court upheld the Licensing and Controlling of Places of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order, 2005, in January. Establishments in the city have 15 days to apply and obtain the license after receiving the notice. They face closure if their applications are not processed by the Commissioner, who is tasked with verifying and ensuring strict compliance of the license conditions.

The license application asks for seven documents. Pub owners in the city say that they are facing issues with two documents — the occupancy certificate and a No Objection Certificate from the Fire Department.

"Most buildings in Bangalore do not have an occupancy certificate for various reasons. One of the biggest reasons is because these buildings were built at a time when occupancy certificates were not a requirement. A lot of people are finding it hard to comply with this. You can get your building certified now, but it costs a huge amount of money. You have to pay per square foot and if you have breweries over 10,000 sq ft, then you can imagine the money it would take," explains Dheeraj*, the owner of a pub in Mahadevpura in the city.

The Commissioner of Police is unconcerned by the appeals of pub owners.

"If there is no occupancy certificate, then they should obtain one now. The occupancy certificate means that the building has adhered to the plan approved by authorities. If they cannot obtain an occupancy certificate now, then they should move their establishment to a building that already has it," he says.

In January, when the Supreme Court upheld the 2005 order, it highlighted that the need to comply with licensing regulations was due to complaints of noise pollution and lack of fire safety measures in the buildings.

Pub owners in Bengaluru claim that incidents of fire hazards are rare and that the fear of such incidents was being used to target nightlife in the city.

“In a building on Church Street, there is no fire escapes. These buildings are all built one next to the other. The government, on one hand, wants this area to be like Times Square, but how do we get fire escapes done here?" asks the same pub owner.

“The police should be lenient in this regard since we comply with 42 departments of the government to just put our product in the market. They are not accepting applications of those who do not have those two documents,” the pub owner says.

Artists in the city are also opposed to the crackdown to regulate entertainment in the city and pointed out that it would affect the thriving independent music scene in the city.

“I understand there are laws, but it seems harsh to cut it down like this. The live music scene in Bengaluru mainly caters to the independent music scene. This is non-Bollywood, non-commercial music and is kept alive only by the live music scene. But this new rule really puts a question on the independent music scene. Where will independent bands now perform in Bengaluru now if this platform of pubs is taken away?” asks Debjeet Basu, a guitarist in Perfect Strangers, a band which performs regularly in pubs in the city.

Debjeet also revealed that musicians are planning to meet authorities soon and explain the importance of live music in the city and also seek to differentiate it from dance bars. The Bengaluru police began their drive to regulate establishments by initially writing to dance bars in the city. A dance bar in Ashok Nagar was raided on June 4 for running a live band.

But the police confirmed that they are determined to continue the crackdown on all establishments in the city that play live or recorded music.

“We are not against entertainment or anyone celebrating, but we are simply asking pub owners to comply with the regulations. These regulations were laid down in 2005 and it has been thirteen years now. Establishments should be able to follow them,” said Suneel Kumar, asserting that the police will continue their crackdown on establishments in the city.

However, he admitted that establishments will be asked to close down only after processing their license applications and added that establishments will be given “reasonable time” to comply with the regulations.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.