Karnataka is all set to allow pubs and bars in Bengaluru to stay open till 1 am on all days, bowing to pressure from business leaders and technology workforce who have complained about the lack of nightlife in the city.
Karnataka's move of an extended nightlife also comes at a time when J Jayalalithaa, chief minister of Tamil Nadu, has begun delivering on her poll promise of imposing prohibition, while Kerala has already imposed restriction on sale of hard liquor in favour of beer and wine.
The Bengaluru city police had piloted last July opening up of pubs and bars during weekends, which is being extended on all days. Karnataka's excise minister SY Meti has approved the move. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's nod is expected by next week, an official said.
"It will give back the economic freedom to the residents of Bengaluru. Bengaluru is a 24X 7 global city and keeping the bars and pubs open is just moving towards the same," TV Mohandas Pai, chairman of Aarin Capital, a venture capital firm and a prominent Bengaluru business leader said.
Karnataka has earned over Rs 15,000 crore in 2015-16 from excise revenue or from sales of alcohol and beer, which has nearly tripled from Rs 5,790 crore in 2008-09, according to the state excise department.
The National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) says the weekend experiment had yielded better returns for both restaurants and the state.
"During the weekend extension, liquor sales went up by 10-15%. We expect that with the week day extension, sales will go up by an additional 5-10%," says Riyaz Amlani, President of NRAI and owner of 37 restaurants, including the popular Smokehouse Deli. "For us, the overall margins are thin and an increase in sale by 10% leads to overall increase in 20% in revenue, which makes a huge difference."
The city contributes to nearly a third of India's software exports, lifting its per capital income to Rs 1,45,799 in 2015-16, which is one and half times the national average. Exports contribute to a third of the state's gross state domestic product (GSDP) in 2014-15. This has resulted in making Bengaluru, India's startup and technology hub, attract huge migrant population, including foreign nationals.
While the industry welcomes the move, residents of Bengaluru are concerned about the chaos that extending nightlife brings.
In 2001, the state introduced a policy that allowed opening up commercial establishments in residential zones to encourage small businesses to grow. In the decade and half since, these zones have become congested as offices, restaurants and pubs have opened next to homes in localities such as HSR Layout, Indira Nagar and Koramangala.
AP Vijayasarathi, secretary of Indiranagar 2nd stage League, resident welfare association of Indiranagar, says that if a pub shuts at 1 am, by the time people actually move out it is 2 am. With revellers spilling on roads, the noise could extend till dawn.
"Other than the noise, there is a huge problem of parking. People park their vehicles in front of houses and go to these pubs. Even if there is an emergency I will not able to remove my vehicle. With so many pubs around, one can not even locate which pub the person went to. We are against the proposal completely," say Vijayasarathi. On Indira Nagar 12th main road, a prominent road in the locality, there are 87 restaurants and pubs.
Pai says zoning regulations should be followed to ensure that pubs and bars don't sprout in residential zones.
"It is a very important thing that has to be done. We can not disturb people who do not want entertainment for those who want entertainment. This should be strictly followed," he says.
But some restaurant owners say that the weekend extension is more than enough for good business.
"For a well-known place like Koshy's on Monday and Tuesday the revenue is less than half, so one can imagine the rest. The business picks up on a Wednesday and goes on increasing till Saturday. For a day when I have less than half revenue, I would have to keep extra staff, pay them two hours over time and also worry about their security when they go back home at one and two in the morning. I do not think it is practical," says Santosh Koshy, who owns the Koshy's restaurant in the city centre.