Dance bars: India

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Arrest of dance bar patrons

Bail only if they donate to charity: Mumbai court

Mateen Hafeez, For bail, court asks dance bar patrons to aid charity, March 25, 2019: The Times of India

Setting an unusual bail condition, a Mumbai court on Sunday asked all 47 accused, caught at a dance bar in the city, to donate Rs 3,000 each to an orphanage in Badlapur.

The offenders were at Indiana Restaurant and Bar near Haji Ali, whose licence was cancelled last year, in the early hours on Sunday when the police raided the place and found eight bar girls in close proximity to the accused and allegedly making obscene gestures and singing. The customers were showering money on the girls.

This is the first time the magistrate court has issued such an order. The accused have been asked to deposit the fine, totalling Rs 1.41 lakh, at the police station from where it would be donated to Satkarma Balak Ashram in Badlapur.

Six lawyers tried to convince magistrate Sabina Malik that their clients could be released on cash bond, but she refused to relent, pointing out that men who shower money at dance bars ruin their families.

The accused, meanwhile, were sent to Arthur Road jail. They will be released only after they make the donations.

The complainant in the case is Arif Patel, a constable attached to the crime branch. A team from Tardeo police found the bar girls had crossed the stipulated distance between the stage and patrons.The city police had, in February last year, cancelled the conditional licences granted to Indiana Bar at Tardeo and to Aero Punjab and Sai Prasad Classic at Andheri over non-compliance with fire safety norms. In August 2016, the Supreme Court had allowed the three dance bars to operate under old laws. As of today, no bar in the city is permitted to have dance on its floor.

The accused have been booked under various sections of the IPC and also under the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women (working therein) Act, 2016.

Ban/ restrictions on dance bars (in Maharashtra)

2015/ Stayed by SC

The Times of India, Oct 16 2015

AmitAnand Choudhary

SC strikes down ban on dance bars in Maharashtra

The Supreme Court stayed the Maharashtra government's ban on dance bars but with the rider that the licensing authority could regulate the performances to ensure they are not even “remotely expressive of any kind of obscenity“. The bars which mushroomed in Mumbai and other parts in the 90s, however, may not be back in action immediately with Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis indicating the state could go in appeal. Reacting to the order, he stressed the court had upheld the state government's power to regulate bars to check obscenity.

This is the second time the court has come to the rescue of bar girls who lost their livelihood. It had declared the ban unconstitutional in 2013 as well.

2015-19: What dance bars did during the ban

Mohua Das, Mateen Hafeez & Chittaranjan Tembhekar, Some shut shop, others became ‘orchestra bars’, January 18, 2019: The Times of India

After The Ban, Mumbai’s Money-Spinning Dance Bars — Popular With Commoners, Cops And Dons — Struggled To Survive

When lights went off on a chapter of Mumbai’s nightlife, its dance bars, some shut shop, many scaled back while others reinvented themselves to operate in a shadowy zone where the rules were blurred.

Deepa Bar in the suburb of Vile Parle has fallen into disrepair, shut for years after a police probe pointed to its link with the Bollywood-cricketer-bookie-underworld nexus in 2005, when it was found that Tarannum, their dancer, was acting as a conduit between bookies and cricketers. Karishma, a once-famous joint in Dadar in central Mumbai, is now a regular family restaurant. But Topaz in Grant Road turned into an ‘orchestra bar’. One-time hot spots like Carnival in Worli and Baywatch in Dadar — each did big business of around Rs 4 crore every year — too, have become orchestra bars. Each of them employed 130 people. Now, their businesses and employees have been halved with the ban seeing 65,000 women and 45,000 men lose their jobs overnight. Many of them left the city.

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 sway to music played by a live band. Bouncers hover at the sides of the stage, often trying to strike a deal or collecting money from patrons with the excuse of it being the crooner’s birthday.

In the days before the shutters came down on the colourful dance bars, these spaces had grown to become an integral part of Mumbai’s leisure industry. The ’70s saw the arrival of dance bars in the city and the ’90s witnessed their modernisation. The first one — Sonia Mahal — opened its doors in 1972 in one of the many office towers at Nariman Point. It was owned by a certain Jagtiani –— an ageing gentleman with a heart problem — who often joked that the dancers were his ‘pacemaker’.

The city’s very first dance bar was designed unaesthetically, but one-time patrons say that the beautiful women who danced there compensated for the lack of ambience. In the shady corners of the dance bar, deals would be signed or broken. The prospect of bumping into the famous denizens of the underworld on a late night wasn’t too far-fetched, with women actually waiting for the bhais since they were the ones with the moolah. It was in Sonia Mahal that the first fight between Dawood’s brother Sabir and Pathan gangsters took place.

The trend set by Jagtiani was soon picked up by the ambitious Shettys who sniffed big money in the business. If Suresh Shetty of Ghatkopar went a step further and opened a cabaret joint called Meghraj, where bikini-clad women danced to Boney M, Shekhar Shetty started the lavish Samudra dance bar in Mumbai Central that became such a hit that even the paanwallas outside managed sell 300 paans a night to customers. Sangam in Prabhadevi was the first to introduce battery-operated mini fans to blow money on the dancers. The police, too, loved these bars since they were a huge source of ‘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 decorations, glass and mirrors 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 plush dance bar that became the favourite haunt for diamond merchants, foreign tourists and visiting cricketers stands hidden behind a tangle of tarpaulin sheets and a jumble of shops on the pavement. The number of employees has dropped from 70 to 32.

“The ban severely affected our business,” said one of the employees when TOI visited the bar on Thursday. He had already received the news of the Supreme Court paving the way for dance bars in the city once more but wasn’t clear about the new terms.

But whether Topaz will bounce back to its days of shimmying women under shimmering lights is uncertain. “We open shutters at 3pm. We have around 15 singers who sing from 9.30pm to 1.30am,” said the worker. Although his employer had applied for permission to resume operating as a dance bar after SC’s decision in 2016 to allow dance bars to operate, it was in vain.

Bharat Thakur of the Dance Bars Association attached to Ahar said several bars such as Deepa in Vile Parle have shut shop. “According to my information, the place has been rented out to a yoga centre and the owners have moved on to real estate business,” he said.

The apex court’s judgment on Thursday has revived hopes in the hotel fraternity. However, bar owners said conditions such as closure at 11.30pm and ‘no obscene dances’ would discourage them from re-opening.

“We were flourishing in Dadar when the dance bar business was at its peak. Now, we are a restaurant, just managing to survive. Our experience post the ban tells us not to go back to the dance bar business at all,” said Manjeet Singh Sethi, Karishma’s owner.

According to Thakur, SC has endorsed three years of imprisonment for owners of bars where dancers indulge in ‘obscene’ actions. “How can anyone define obscenity? It’s a risky affair. We’d rather stay closed than spend our lives in jail,” said Thakur, who is president of the association and leading the battle.

2019: SC allows dance bars to reopen

AmitAnand Choudhary, Relief for dance bars as SC strikes down Maha norms, January 18, 2019: The Times of India

State Put Conditions Impossible To Adhere To: Court

After a gap of over four years, during which the Maharashtra government persistently dug in its heels, dance bars are set to come alive in Mumbai and other cities in the state after the Supreme Court on Thursday set aside almost all stringent conditions that hampered grant of licence and led to closure of most bars.

Paving the way for opening of the dance bars, a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said the state government, under the garb of regulation, had imposed conditions that were virtually impossible to adhere to. “The State, thereby, is aiming to achieve something indirectly which it could not do directly,” it said.

Mumbai’s dance bars had been a part of its night life but successive state governments since 2005 sought to discourage live dance performances in bars and this is the third time the SC intervened to protect the interest of owners and bar girls. This time the court quashed provisions to bring dance bars under CCTV surveillance and to ban serving of liquor, noting the regulations are totally disproportionate, unreasonable and arbitrary.

The court said there cannot be a complete prohibition from serving alcoholic beverages and other measures have to be adopted to check any nuisance. The court did, however, agree with the state government in allowing the bars to operate only between 6pm-11:30pm and to ban the practice of showering notes and coins on the dancing stage.

“We see no reason as to why liquor cannot be served at such places. It seems that the state is more influenced by moralistic overtones under the wrong presumption that persons after consuming alcohol will misbehave with the dancers...,” the bench said.

The court said mandatory installation of CCTV cameras at entrances and other places of amusement was “totally inappropriate and amounts to invasion of privacy”. The bench also ruled that separation of the dancing stage from the bar area by placing nontransparent partition is not required.

The court also quashed the provision to ban opening of dance bars within 1km radius of educational and religious institutions, saying the state government did not take into account ground realities, particularly in Mumbai, where it would be difficult to find a place that meets the criteria.

It also set aside the rule which prohibited customers from tipping dancing girls directly. The condition that only a person with ‘good character’ and with no criminal antecedents is eligible to get licence was also set aside by the SC which said these expressions are capable of any interpretation and prone to be misused as per the whims and fancy of government officials.

SC scraps Maha orchestra bar gender cap

AmitAnand Choudhary, February 22, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has scrapped the gender cap imposed by Maharashtra authorities which limit the number of male and female performers in orchestra bars to four each, saying practices or rules rooted in historical prejudices, gender stereotypes and paternalism have no place in society.

As per the conditions imposed by the Mumbai police on restaurants and bars, only eight artistes or singers are permitted on the stage with equal number of female and male performers. There are over 250 establishments which have taken licence for holding orchestral shows.

Holding the condition as illegal and void, a bench of Justices KM Joseph and S Ravindra Baht said the order on gender-cap (i. e. four females and four males, in any performance) appears to be the product of a stereotypical view that women who perform in bars and establishments belong to a certain class of society which should be dispelled.

“As authorities of this court have repeatedly emphasised, whenever challenges arise, particularly based on gender, it’s the task of judges to scrutinise close- ly, whether, if and the extent to which the impugned practices or rules or norms are rooted in historical prejudice, gender stereotypes and paternalism. Such attitudes have no place in our society; recent developments have highlighted areas hitherto considered exclusive male ‘bastions’ like employment in the armed forces, are no longer so. Similarly, in the present case, this court holds that the gender cap imposed by the impugned condition is void,” said Justice Bhat.

The state government tried to justify the condition on the ground that it was done to ensure safety of female artistes. It contended that women are exploited in bars and restaurants and are forced to do obscene dance moves and also engage in sexual activities with customers. “The condition of having only four women has been made for the safety of women employ- ees/artistes and in the interest of public,” the state contended.

The bench wasn’t convinced and said the state should provide a conducive atmosphere to women artistes so that they can perform freely as per their wish without being afraid of safety.

The bar owners had submitted that there was no rationality in imposing the condition as the composition of performers was entirely on how the band wanted to organise its business. They said a strict numerical division of equal gender participation in the orchestra band, serves no rational basis as an item or piece can involve all male performers, or all females, or few males and majority female, or vice versa.

The SC said cap on the overall number of performers can go on but not the cap on gender composition. It set aside the order of Bombay HC which had approved condition imposed by police.

Alcohol in dance bars

SC faults Maharashtra law/ 2016

AmitAnand Choudhary, SC calls Maha law absurd, allows booze in dance bars, Sep 22 2016 : The Times of India

Permits Bars To Run Under Old Norms

The Supreme Court questioned the Maha Court questioned the Maharashtra government on Wednesday over its decision to ban liquor in dance bars and put them under CCTV surveillance, terming it “absurd“ and “regressive“ and allowed bar owners to carry on their business irrespective of the new rules.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan asked Maharashtra on how it could ban serving of liquor when the dance bars have valid liquor licence and asked the government why it did not put a blanket ban on consumption of liquor in the state.

The bench said new rules framed by the state would not be applicable to the three dance bars which have got li cence and posted the case for hearing on November 9.

The state government recently framed a new law -Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016 -which says liquor would not be served in the area where bar girls perform. The rules make it mandatory for bar owners to put CCTV cameras inside bar rooms and allowed them to carry on their business only between 6.30 pm to 11.30 pm. The Act also says that no person shall shower notes on the stage or hand over personally to a dancer, a provision supported by the top court.

Challenging validity of the rules, the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association contended that the restrictions were imposed to prevent them from carrying on their business. Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for the association, said the rules violated the earlier SC judgment which held that it was a fundamental right of owners and bar girls to run bars.

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and Maharashtra's standing counsel Nishant Katneshwarkar, however, said the state had power to regulate dance bars and restrictions were put to protect the dignity of women and ensure law and order. Naphade said liquor consumption was not a part of fundamental right and the state could ban serving of liquor in bars. He said the state had “absolute right“ to ban liquor in dance bars.

The bench, however, was not convinced with his arguments and said it was highly paradoxical. “You can put other conditions but you cannot say that liquor cannot be served in dance bars. You should take other steps to protect the dignity of women and grant them shelter,“ the bench said. Regarding CCTV cameras, the court said such cameras could at most be installed at the entry points of bars and not inside.

CCTV footage in dance bars

Violation of bar patrons’ privacy: SC/ 2016

The Times of India, Mar 3, 2016

Dhananjay Mahapatra

Live footage will violate bar patrons’ privacy: SC

The Supreme Court asked the Maharashtra government to grant licences to dance bar owners within 10 days after they comply with a clutch of modified guidelines. Appearing for the Maharashtra government, additional solicitor general Pinky Anand said police were insisting on being supplied live CCTV footage of performances because they believed that dance bars, which operated till the wee hours, were centres for many other activities and there was a need to keep a constant watch on them. The SC bench asked police to keep men posted in these dance bars if they feared anything untoward would happen there. "But we cannot permit you to insist on CCTV coverage of the performance area as it will be violating the right to privacy of the patrons who may not like their pictures to be flashed all over, especially to a police station," it said. Appearing for the bar and restaurant owners' association, senior advocate Jayant Bhushan agreed to the court's suggestion that CCTV cameras could be installed at the entry point of dance bars as well as in the lobby and restaurant floor.

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