Mumbai: Come Jan 27, night life will be back in city

Mumbai: Malls, multiplexes, shops and restaurants within 'gated communities' and non-residential areas in Mumbai are set to stay open 24X7 from January 27, with the final push for the implementation of the long-pending proposal being given at a meeting on Thursday chaired by state tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, and attended by Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi and Mumbai Police chief Sanjay Barve.

Reviving Mumbai’s nightlife has been a pet project of Aaditya Thackeray, who mooted it first in 2013 as president of Yuva Sena. “Almost every documentary, every book describes Mumbai with this cliche - ``The City that Never Sleeps”.

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However, unlike any other city that fits this description, we do sleep. We are put to sleep by stone-age laws”, Aditya had written in a letter in 2015 to then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

As president of the Sena’s youth wing, Thackeray had since been consistently pushing his `vibrant nightlife’ proposal for Mumbai. The proposal finally came to fruition at the meeting held at the Sahyadri Guest House on Thursday, where the BMC and Mumbai police chiefs expressed their willingness to allow such establishments to stay open 24X7 without selling alcohol beyond the current cut-off of 1:30 am. The meeting was also attended by representatives of malls, hotels and restaurants.

“Restaurants and shops in gated communities can stay open 24X7 even from today if they want. However, the commercial establishments themselves said they needed some time for preparations, and that they would be in a position to operate 24X7 from January 27.

This will only be in non-residential areas and gated communities. Alcohol will not be served beyond the existing cut-off time,” BMC chief Pardeshi said.

Commercial establishments will have the option to stay open 24x7 on all days, or on weekends, holidays or festivals, depending on their specific business potential.

“As stakeholders and the apex body of hotels and restaurants in the State, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) welcomes the move wholeheartedly.

The Association has been spearheading the petition for making Mumbai a global tourism destination for nearly two decades. The decision to allow commerce to continue through the night will popularize hospitality and tourism and improve perception of the city in the eyes of foreign tourists,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, HRAWI.

"The previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government had in December 2017 issued a notification to the Maharashtra Shops and Establishment Act, 2017, allowing shops, including restaurants that do not serve alcohol, cinema halls, salons, hyper malls and businesses such as banks, medical establishments and tax consultancies, to remain open 24x7 in the state. It did not include liquor shops and bars.

However, there was not much interest shown by commercial establishments at the time. Seeking clarity on Thursday’s decision, however, BJP MLA Ashish Shelar on Friday tweeted, “Urge Maharashtra government to clarify full details about bars, pubs, malls and eateries staying open 24X7.

Peace, Safety and security of of Mumbaikars in residential areas is the top most priority. Any bar, pub, mall eatery which is security threat for residential areas or puts burden on police will be opposed.”

Speaking to reporters at a civic awards function at NSCI Club, Worli on Friday evening, Aaditya Thackeray confirmed that a decision was taken on Thursday for movie halls, eateries, restaurants and multiplexes to stay open 24X7.

Responding to Shelar’s tweet, Aaditya replied that the night life concept had already been introduced in Ahmedabad. “What’s wrong in starting it in Mumbai? Why should Mumbai be left behind?” he asked.

A senior Mumbai Police officer, who did not wish to be named said, “The guidelines for security and fire-safety compliance inside the establishment will be set by the BMC. We are only responsible for the security outside.”