After the tragic fire which claimed 14 lives and destroyed a few buildings in Mumbai’s Kamala Mills, Bengaluru’s civic body has geared up to shut down all rooftop restaurants and bars that violate fire safety norms.
Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj, Joint Commissioner for Health and Solid Waste Management Sarfaraz Khan and health officer from BBMP East Zone inspected several rooftop restaurants in East and South zones on Wednesday.
The Palike issued closure notices to 49 establishments in the East Zone and 12 in the South Zone. Of the 49 establishments, 14 were in Indiranagar.
“Inspections were conducted in 12 of the total 38 rooftop establishments in the South Zone. The remaining will be served notices as soon as inspection is completed,” said Dr Manoranjan Hegde, BBMP Health Officer, South Zone.
In Banaswadi, popular Italian joint Onesta was issued a notice to vacate the premises and slapped with a Rs 5 lakh fine. Another eatery in the area, Rasta Café, was sealed and the owners of the establishment were also fined Rs 5 lakh. On Lavelle Road, two outlets – Attic and Lady Bug – were shut down and a penalty of Rs 5 lakh was levied on each of these establishments.
Speaking to TNM, BBMP Health Officer East Zone Dr Siddappaji said, “We had issued notices to around 40 restaurants on December 26. When we went for a surprise inspection, we found that these four establishments were still operating. The problem is that they have used bamboo and wood for furnishing the rooftops. They have a kitchen on the rooftop itself and there is no door while entering the rooftop area. Access to the ground floor is easy. This is a major safety hazard. Considering the potential harm it could cause to human lives, Rs 5 lakh is a small amount of fine.”
According to BBMP Chief Public Health Officer Dr Lokesh, health inspectors have begun inspections in Bommanahalli, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, West Zone today. The officer said that notices will be issued to all rooftop restaurants and bars in the city as they are all operating without a trade license.
“In a few weeks, we will have the exact number of establishments that have been shut. In some places, the rooftop is an extension of either the ground floor or the restaurant or bar on the floor immediately below the rooftop. They obtain license for one floor and extend it to the rooftop. This is illegal. How did the Engineering Department (BBMP) authorise the setting up of these rooftops in the first place?” Dr Siddappaji questioned.
Senior Health Inspector of East Zone Sanjay has been suspended for negligence of duty. The BBMP has given seven days’ time for establishments to shut their rooftops.
“If the establishment is exclusively a rooftop one, then they have to shut down operations within seven days. If the rooftop is an extension of an existing restaurant, the rooftop operations must be stopped. If any of these establishments do not shut down as per the notice, their trade licenses will be cancelled and they will be fined. The fine amount will be decided by the Mayor and Joint Commissioner,” said Dr Lokesh.
Dr Lokesh adds that these buildings have clearly violated the National Building Code.
Sources in the BBMP Public Health Department said that they were shocked to find that the Engineering Department had sanctioned illegal plans.
“Our department officials have requested the Joint Commissioner to intimate higher-ups so that a probe can be conducted. How can plans be sanctioned if they violate safety norms? Everyone saw what happened in Mumbai. We don’t want it to happen in Bengaluru. The Engineering Department had to be doubly cautious, especially after the Carlton Tower mishap. Once an inquiry is conducted, we will know what went wrong,” a senior official with the BBMP Public Health Department said.
Mayor Sampath Raj told TNM that some rooftops had flammable material and that all of them had violated fire safety measures.
Currently, three closure notices have been issued to establishments in Rajarajeshwari Nagar Zone and five in Mahadevapura Zone.
Meanwhile, the Fire and Emergency Services Department, which is conducting independent inspections of restaurants and bars violating fire safety norms, has issued notices to 70 establishments and given them 15 days’ notice.