11-years after the state government had banned the Dance girls from performing in Bars, the dance bars are set to reopen in Mumbai and Maharashtra state, four bars have got licences to host live dance performances. Bar owners said another 16 bars are expected to get licences over the next few days, and another 100 will get it by month-end.
According to sources, seating arrangements, lights are being re-positioned, and applications from dancers have started coming.
On March 2, the Supreme Court had asked the Maharashtra government to start issuing licences to dance bars by March 15. The apex court had denied the state government’s requests to place CCTV cameras (connected to police stations) inside permit areas or performance areas, but had directed that cameras should be fixed at the entrance to the bars. (Read also: Issue licence to dance bar, No CCTV enjoyment for cops)
Following the order, around 150 licenses applications have been made, of which four bars -– Indiana at Tardeo, Natraj at Vidyavihar, Uma Palace at Mulund and Padma Palace at Bhandup finally got their license on Monday while about 15 others are expected to get on Tuesday.
The licence requires them to comply with 26 conditions, key among them being maintaining distance between dancers and customers.
CCTV cameras will be installed at the entrance, with a limit of four dancers per bar, a railing around the performance area, and a distance of at least 5 feet between the stage and customers.
Bharat Thakur, owner of three bars — Indiana in Tardeo, Natraj in Vidya Vihar, and Uma Palace in Mulund West — got licences for dance performances for all of them on Monday. (The fourth bar that got a licence is Padma Bar in Bhandup.)
Thakur said, “We had an orchestra following the ban. Business had dropped for us, but the state also incurred a loss, as tourism took a hit. The bar dancers were rendered jobless, and were not rehabilitated.”
Maharashtra in 2005 suspended the licences of hundreds of bars and hotels that featured skimpily dressed women dancing to Bollywood tunes on a small stage for male customers.
But after several appeals over the years against the ban, the Supreme Court ordered the state to issue licences from 15 March on condition that certain rules are adhered to.
When the bars were shut in 2005, about 75,000 women were estimated to be working there and bar owners said the women were earning a legitimate living.
Manjeet Singh Sethi, former president of the Dance Bar Owners Association, who closed his dance bar eight years ago, and was the petitioner in the case, said Mumbai nightlife will get a shot in the arm once the dance bars open. “I have told all the members (of the bar owners association) to follow all the rules. We hope the industry flourishes again.”
Varsha Kale, President of Womanist Party of India has earlier said, “I feel the government should appoint female police personnel to monitor the CCTV stream. The whole money showering business should be converted into tokens or coupons, so that the money can be monitored as well and the girls should be appointed on monthly salary basis, as of now the girls are feasible for bank loans.” (Read Also: I welcome the move of installation of CCTV cameras in Dance Bar)
There are over 1,200 dance bars across the state. Bar owners said business like earlier is likely to resume begin by April or May.