While residents complain of unruly behaviour from the pub goers, garbage, and noise, the pub owners say that they are being targeted unfairly.

Bluru pubs protest live music ban residents say buildings themselves are illegal
news Controversy Monday, July 30, 2018 - 14:31

On Sunday, a number of pub and restaurant owners as well as musicians in Bengaluru, came together at Vapour pub and brewery in Indiranagar to protest the ban on playing live and recorded music in their respective establishments. This came shortly after a Change.org petition was started by Debjeet Basu, a guitarist with ‘Perfect Strangers’, to “save music in Bengaluru”.

Just outside the venue, a group of residents held up banners saying, “Stop unethical commercialisation of Indiranagar”.

While the pub owners say that their attempts to work with the residents to address their issues have fallen on deaf ears, residents maintain that the question of cooperation does not arise because the establishments themselves are illegal and unsafe – an allegation which most pub owners deny.

It appears that the parties have reached an impasse with no quick solutions.

The Occupancy Certificate conundrum

Earlier this year, pubs received notices from Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel that places serving food and beverages would need licenses to play live or recorded music. 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 2018.

Two of the documents needed for this licence are an Occupancy Certificate (OC) and a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department. An OC can be issued if a building is built in compliance with a pre-sanctioned building plan.  

The panel at Vapour comprised Akshat Prasad, the owner of Vapour, Nikhil Barua who owns The Humming Tree, Manu Chandra, a chef and owner of Fatty Bao, Meghna, whose venue was shut down because of the ban on music, Dheeraj Kumar, owner of Pablo’s Gastrobar, Ketan, a musician, Sandhya, a lawyer, and Debjeet who started the petition.

The panel argued that a majority of buildings in Bengaluru do not have the OC, simply because it was not a requirement to obtain licenses earlier. “The OC is anyway issued to the landlord or the building owner. We, as tenants, do not have it,” Nikhil said.

Akshat further argued that they have learnt from their interaction with the BBMP that 95% buildings in Bengaluru do not have an OC that and the number is as high as 97% in Indiranagar. When asked why they can’t apply for it now, he admits that it’s because the building is not entirely compliant with the pre-sanctioned building plans.

“But I have 14 licenses. We have an Effluent Treatment Plant and Sewage Treatment Plant as well. We have water tanks dedicated to fire-fighting, emergency exits on each floor and smoke detectors. While obtaining any of those licenses, I was not asked for an OC. Now that they have suddenly made it mandatory, they cannot simply say my entire establishment is illegal. We need time to respond,” he argued.

As for the fire safety NOC, Akshat, Nikhil and others argued that they have submitted the required documents to the Fire Department and are fire safety compliant. However, the official in charge of the audit and subsequent issuance of the NOC has retired and there’s no permanent replacement yet. “At least 25-30 of our files are pending approval in the Fire Department,” Nikhil said.

‘No question of cooperation if building is illegal’

The pub owners said that they have tried multiple times in the past months to cooperate with residents, and accused them of painting all pubs with one brush. “We want to work with them and take action against places that are not soundproofed, and non-compliant with other norms. But they accuse us of encouraging immoral activities, and having drugs and syringes in our venues. That’s a blatant lie,” Nikhil argued.

Residents meanwhile, say that there is no question of cooperating if the buildings are illegal. Members of I Change Indiranagar, a congregation of Resident Welfare Associations (RWA), told TNM that they face daily troubles with parking, waste dumping, sound pollution and revelry because of the pubs.

“There are 140 places serving liquor in four roads,” points out Aruna Newton, a resident. “We are protesting illegal commercialisation. The building does not have an OC and is in violation of building byelaws. It has no proper parking. Their garbage is left on the street. Every aspect of their functioning creates dissonance,” stated Sneha, another resident.

Vinoo Thimmaya, who stays near two pubs – Tippler on the Roof, and Bottle and Glass – said, “There are times when I’ve been unable to enter my home because vehicles block driveway. Bottles and cans are thrown into my house, drunk people have urinated on my wall as well. I just lock my gate at 8 pm and don’t come out,” he said.  

“When someone said ‘be reasonable’, they have to be on the right side at least. Can we turn a blind eye to something illegal that is happening here? And then actually make peace with them parking in our houses? You think we have nothing else to do but walk around and see who's making the noise?” argued Aruna.

However, pub owners argued that the RWAs are agenda driven. “They're painting everyone based on what happened at one establishment," Manu Chandra says, referring to the Mango Tree incident from earlier this month where 32 women who were trafficked, were rescued. "Thats where effective policing comes in. But they dont want our cooperation. It's like they want Indiranagar entirely decommercialised.”   

Musicians rue the loss of music

A recurring aspect of the panel discussion and interaction among the 80 odd audience members, many of whom were musicians, was how Bengaluru stood to lose its music.

Francis, a 40-year-old musician who has been performing and making music for a living for two decades now, has decided to head back to his hometown of Kolkata because of the clampdown here. “I was thriving here for the past two and a half years. Now, I have to go back and think how I’m going to keep playing,” he said.

Ketan, a musician who was on the panel, said, “One day you have a gig planned, and next day it’s cancelled. You lose money, but more than that it's crazy you could be called a criminal overnight. I didn't know I could be taken to jail for playing live until I spoke to this panel.”

Dheeraj, another panelist, said that hospitality and entertainment have always gone hand in hand. “Bengaluru is a melting pot of culture, and music is a part of its hospitality industry. By clamping down on artists and venues, the entire hospitality industry is going to be affected,” he said.  

Residents, however, maintain that this is not about music and musicians at all. “We don’t want to take away someone’s livelihood either. Don’t fire over the musicians’ shoulder. Play your music, and do your business, but within the legal framework,” Sneha stated.