New Delhi, Aug 24 - It began as an online petition to extend the operating hours of the city's clubs, pubs and other watering holes. In a matter of weeks, it has turned into a full-fledged movement with thousands pledging their support and vowing to struggle till the goal of saving the city's nightlife is achieved.
The man behind the campaign - Save Delhi's Nightlife - is 32-year-old event manager Ashutosh Sharma who started the online petition July 30 to extend the closing time for the city's bars beyond the present 1 a.m., depending on the location.
Over the years, this sector is shrinking due to the early deadline. People are gradually losing their interest in going out at night and partying, thus affecting the livelihoods of many, Sharma told IANS.
The Save Delhi's Nightlife page on Facebook has over 6,000 likes while close to 1,500 people have signed the online petition which has been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee's secretary and Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, as also parliamentarians and senior government officials.
Sharma said bartenders, DJs, bouncers and even cab drivers, apart from the restaurant owners, are losing out due to the 1 a.m. deadline.
According to Delhi Police, outlets in the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) area - essentially central Delhi - are allowed to remain open till 1 a.m. while the others have to down shutters by 12.30 p.m. Police say the restrictions help maintain law and order in the city.
If clubs remain open late at night, incidents of crime and drunken driving will definitely increase. We have to follow the law, said a police officer, requesting anonymity.
Sharma rejected the argument.
I know many people who always get a cab back home if they get drunk at a party. It all comes to behaving responsibly and whether you are going to a club or not doesn't matter, he said.
Shyam Singh of Delhi-based Escorts Security, which provides bouncers to numerous nightclubs in the National Capital Region (NCR), asked: After a hard day's work if people want to go out and have a good time how is that threatening the city's law and order situation?
According to the stakeholders, a joint effort between Delhi Police and outlet owners is the only solution.
Both Shyam Singh and Sharma advocated the increased deployment of bouncers not only within the premises but also in their vicinity.
Outlet owners agree.
I agree that if there are more bouncers and better street lighting around an outlet or in the market where it is situated as well as parking lots will help a great deal, Prabhat Kumar Sharma, manager of Urban Knights, an upscale club in south Delhi, told IANS.
We are ready to take all the steps to ensure the safety of our visitors but the deadline needs to be extended for sure, he added.
His views were corroborated by Aarti Rastogi, marketing manager at Turquoise Cottage, another popular south Delhi pub, who said that while beefing up security will certainly help, the city's menfolk need to change their mentality as well.
Meanwhile, Sharma said that his movement is gathering steam and the support base is increasing every day, thanks to a candlelight march organised Aug 18 at Jantar Mantar, in the city centre, and exposure on the social media.
For the record, the deadline in Mumbai is 1.30 a.m. In Chennai, bars in five star hotels remain open till 12 midnight while those with special licences can run 24 hours, but they generally close down by 3 a.m. Other establishments serving liquor shut down by 11 p.m.
In Bangalore, outlets can remain open till 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. On all other days they have to close down by 11.30 p.m.
In Hyderabad, five-star hotels have different deadlines for closing outlets serving alcohol as per their licences while other outlets serving alcohol don't accept orders after 10 p.m.
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