Kolkata: Amid year-end rush, singing bars may seek extra-hour nod | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: The year-end festivities have brought cheer to crooning bars in central Kolkata, where “occupancy” jumped from 35%-40% till second week of December to 75%-80% on December 24 and 25. Usually wary of police crackdowns for violating guidelines, many of the outlets have been decked in festive decorations and lights for the year-end celebrations.
Earnings at many of these bars in central Kolkata, located within a few meters of each other in Esplanade and Chandni Chowk, plummeted for most part of 2019 after police barred patrons from showering money on singers and conducted raids on some of the establishments for violating norms, which stipulated that the crooners could only sing and sway to the music but not break into a dance. Many bars with multiple stories were forced to shut some of the floors owing to low footfalls as band leaders, who took the place on lease from owners and arrange singers and musicians, could no longer afford to pay. But the scene seemed to change during Christmas, when the number of guests went up, raising hopes among the owners of at least “breaking even” till December 31. Some band leaders at bigger bars are now contemplating to seek permission from police to operate till 1am if business continued to be good throughout the week. “According to the rules, we must shut by midnight, but police are granting permission for an extra hour on December 31 for a fee of Rs 15,000. Under normal circumstances, it is a loss-making proposition because a band leader has to also pay the singers, musicians and bouncers. But if business picks up, it makes sense to keep open till 1am,” said a band leader.
Till a few days ago, the owners had lost hope. “Business has dried up and footfalls even over the weekends are low,” Chandresh Meghani, partner at Hotel Embassy, which has two floors, had said. But band leaders said business on December 24 and 25 was “relatively better” and they hoped for an encore on December 31 and January 1. “Given the state of affairs in the past few months, business on December 24 and December 25 was decent. The floors were packed till midnight, a rarity nowadays. We are expecting it to be as good till the beginning of the next year. This will help us recover at least our cost,” said a band manager, who runs floors in three bars in central Kolkata.
The swinging business graph impacts the band leaders who pay a rent to bar and hotel owners. The rent may vary from Rs 20,000 a week to Rs 45,000 a week, depending on the locality, space and the “profile of guests”. Crooners or singers are also supposed to obtain a licence from police.
Singing bars existed in the city in the ’60s and ’70s but the practice gradually discontinued. It made a comeback in 2005, when dance bars in Mumbai were banned but they were different from those that existed earlier. There were reports of frequent clashes and complains of “harassment” of singers. Earlier this year, police enforced a rule, barring guests from showering money on singers, a common practice at many places. Cops also raided bars that operated beyond deadline and had more singers than allowed.

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