Old boom unlikely to return even after SC verdict on Maharashtra dance bars, feel owners

Shabnam, a former bar dancer now in her 40s, too feels that the even though the bars would restart, the business would not be like what it used to be earlier.

Published: 18th January 2019 12:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th January 2019 12:10 AM   |  A+A-

Bar dancers flash victory signs as they address the media after Supreme Court's verdict which paves the way for reopening of dance bars in Maharashtra in Mumbai Thursday jan 17 2019. | PTI

Express News Service

MUMBAI: Though the Supreme Court decision has relaxed several restrictions and is expected to pave way for re-starting Dance Bars in Maharashtra, it is unlikely to happen very soon feel the bar owners.

"Currently there are 293 orchestra bars in the city. Most of them were once dace bars which had to be converted to orchestra bars - where only music is played - after the ban on dance bars in 2005. Now, if they have to establish again as dance bars, they will have to seek fresh licences and we fear that the process would not be too easy," said Uday Shetty of Association Hotels and Restaurants (AHAR). Shetty also pointed out at the time restriction as major hindrance.

"The business of bars typically comes to full swing only after 9 pm or 10 pm. Dance bars typically were always known for late night services. In such condition the time limit of five hours in the evening is likely to be a major hurdle," he added.

Another major hurdle would be the public sentiments. While Varsha Vidya Vilas of 'Dance Bar Virodhi Kruti Samiti' objected to the 'need' for performances of women dancers at liquor bars while suggesting sexual exploitation of women in the business and has sought continuation of ban, state women commission's chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar pointed out at the restriction which even the Supreme Court has not done away with.

"The major conditions like CCTV at the entrance of the bar and scrutiny of staff for the criminal record have not been done away in today's SC decision. So, the state government shall ensure that if at all the bars are to re-start they would start within the ambit of all restrictions," she said and added, "however, the decision does not reflect the people's sentiments that were reflected in three legislations that the state government brought in between 2006 and 2016.

Praveen Agrawal, Vice President of Fights for Rights Bar Association, though haled the Supreme Court decision for doing away with the obscenity clause in the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (Working therein) Act, 2016, he too said that his association would seek a review of the decision if after studying the provisions in detail they feel some conditions are not conducive for the business.

Shabnam, a former bar dancer now in her 40s, too feels that the even though the bars would restart, the business would not be like what it used to be earlier.

"We used to earn a lot in those days. Every girl used to have her own drawer, where they would put all the money that the customers have splurged on them or they received in tips." 

"The owners used to have a share in the money. But, several times the girls suspected that they were cheated and money was stolen from the drawers as one key of the drawer always remained with the owner," Shabnam grumbled and added, "Even now, if at all the owners agree to pay salary, the fear of being cheated would always be there. And with no splurging of money the girls won't get much income making the business much less attractive."

According to several estimates there were around 5,000 dance bars in the MMR area of Mumbai and neighbouring districts like Thane, Palghar and Raigad in the golden days of dance bars before 2005.

Over 1 lakh bar dancers are estimated to have been working at these bars. Several others like the tailors, makeup-men, transporters who ferry the girls, the operators at hostels for the girls too were dependent upon the girls.

The number is estimated to be around 5 to 6 lakh. However, even back then the number of legal bars were restricted to below 1,000 say people associated with the field.

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