MUMBAI: When the lights went off on a chapter of Mumbai’s nightlife-dance bars-some shut shop, many scaled back, but others were reinvented themselves in a shadowy zone where the rules were blurred.
Deepa Bar in Vile Parle is in ruins, closed for years after a police probe pointed to the link between the Bollywood-cricketer-bookie-underworld nexus in 2005 that found Tarannum, his dancer acting as a conduit among bookies and cricketers.
Karishma, once famous for its nightlife in Dadar in central Mumbai, is now a family restaurant. But Topaz in Grant Road turned into an ‘orchestra bar’ Others like Carnival in Worli and Baywatch in Dadar, every doing big business of around Rs 4 crore every year, are all orchestra bars too Every employed 130 people Now, their businesses and employees are at half; 65,000 women and 45,000 men lost their jobs
As the name suggests, a majority that morphed into ‘orchestra bars’ provide live entertainment-legally or on the sly- where a bevy of non-singers are paraded and made to croon and a live band played by sway to music. Bouncers hover on the side of the stage, often trying to strike a deal or collecting money from the crooner’s birthday.
In the days before the shutters came down on the colorful dance bars, these spaces had grown to become an integral part of Mumbai’s leisure industry. The Seventies saw the arrival of dance bars in the city and the Nineties witnessed their modernization. The first one -Sonia Mahal-threw open its door in 1972 at one of the office towers in Nariman Point. It was owned by a certain Jagtiani-a aging gentleman with a heart problem-who often joked that the dancers were their ‘pacemaker’ The city’s very first dance bar was designed unaesthetically with mirrors but the dancers compensated for the lack of ambience. In the shady corners of the dance bar, The prospect of bumping into the famous denies of the underworld was too farfetched, with girls waiting for the bhas. It was in Sonia Mahal that Dawood’s brother Sabir and Pathan gangsters took place.
The trend set by Jagtiani was soon picked up by the ambitionful Shettys who sniffed big money. If Suresh Shetty of Ghatkopar went on a step further and opened a cabaret joint called Meghraj where bikini-clad girls danced to Boney M, Shekhar Shetty started the lavish Samudra dance bar in Mumbai Central that became such a hit that even the paanwallahs outside managed sell 300 paans a night Sangam in Prabhadevi was the first to introduce battery-operated mini fans to blow money on the dancers. Police, too, loved these bars for the ‘hafta’.
The one that brought a bit of class to this trade was Topaz Bar and Restaurant, near Novelty Cinema on Grant Road. The opulent bar with gilded marble decoration, glass and mirror work and expensive drapes with three VIP halls and one for commoners used to rake in an average of Rs 5 lakh per night. Today, the dance bar, once the favorite haunt of diamond merchants, foreign tourists and visiting cricketers stands hidden behind tarpaulin sheets and shops. Its employees are down from 70 to 32
“The ban affected our business severely,” said one of the employees when TOI is visiting Jan. 17. Whether Topaz will bounce back is uncertain. “We open at 3pm. We have around 15 singers who sing from 9.30pm to 1.30am, “said the worker
Bharat Thakur of Dance Bars Association attached to Ahar said several times like Deepa in Vile Parle has shut shop. “According to my information, the place has been rented out to a yoga center and the owners have moved on to real estate business,” he said.
The SC’s judgment on January 17 has revived hopes. However, bar owners said conditions such as closure at 11.30 pm and ‘no obscene dances’ are disappointing. “We were flourishing in Dadar. Now, we are a restaurant, just managing to survive. Karishma’s owner said, “Manjit Singh Sethi, Karishma’s owner, said,” Our experience post the ban is not to go back to the dance bar business at all. ”
MUMBAI DANCE BAR CASE
- Mar 2005
Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil announces ban on dance bars
- Apr 2006
Bombay HC turns down ban, state government appeals in SC
- Jun 2014
State Government amends law, files appeal against SC ban
- Oct 2015
SC strikes down appeal, says provisions similar to earlier
- Mar-Nov 2016
SC directs govt to allow dance bars
Maharashtra government passes new bill, fixes
SC asks states to get licenses under license
- Feb 2017
Mumbai Police licensing branch grants
- Mar-Aug 2018
SC asks states to file reply on petition
SC questions Maharashtra govt’s “total ethical policing”
- Jan 17, 2019
SC quashes provision of Maharashtra legislation on restrictions on dance bars
Thakur said SC has endorsed three years in jail for bar owners where dancers indulge in ‘obscene’ actions. “How can anyone define obscenity? It’s a risky affair We’d rather stay closed than life in jail, “said Thakur, President of the association who is leading the battle.
In February 2017, just three dance bars reopened their doors after completing all formalities. In February 2018, all three were shut down after police refuted their licenses “irregularities” as they could not produce fire NOCs. A senior police officer said on January 17 that none of the three-Indians in Tardeo, and Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad were arrested in the evening. “They had to apply for the new norms. They did not have the licenses, “said a home department official. He said he has not received any new applications as owners in waiting for the final verdict in the case.
WHAT SC STRUCK DOWN
On Dance Bar Location
On Dance Bar Location
On Dance Bar Location