Kimi Bose, 23, was at Shisha on Friday night when resident DJ Girish made an announcement that made her and her friends go wild. “He said that clubs in the city could now be open until 2am instead of the 1am deadline. We were ecstatic,” said the PYT. “It’s about time this happened because just as you would start to enjoy a night out, it would be time for the last order and the music to stop.”
That was not the only reason to say cheers in the run-up to the Pujas.
The new excise department rule (as reported in The Telegraph on Sunday) allows bars in five-star hotels that don’t play live music to serve liquor round the clock. This means that next Saturday, after the party ends at 2am at Shisha, Kimi does not have to head back home or to a friends’ for a few drinks. She and her party gang can pit stop at a coffee shop in a five-star hotel. “That is such a relief! After 1am on a Saturday night, we would head to someone’s house but that’s not always possible because it disturbs the family members,” she said.
And then there is the safety aspect. “If the nightclubs are open till late, there will be more people on the streets. For months the streets would get deserted by midnight with rowdy bikers taking over. Calcutta had changed. But now I hope people will party late and the streets will be safer,” said Neha Panda, actress and stylist.
While all this good news for party-goers, it’s an expensive deal for bar owners. To stay open beyond midnight, bars must now pay Rs 10,000 for the first hour and Rs 20,000 for the second, instead of the uniform Rs 10,000 per hour rate introduced last festive season. “For a nightclub that stays open thrice a week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), this means Rs 30,000 per day which works out to Rs 3,60,000 a month. While ownership nightclubs will be able to cover the cost, those paying rental will find it difficult to sustain. If a nightclub pays Rs 5 lakh as rent, the cost of extended party hours is 70-80 per cent of their rental!” said the manager of a nightclub, who did not wish to be named.
Ask Bunty Sethi, who shut Venom on Camac Street because of “high rentals” in April 2012 and then opened ownership-based 9F this June. “If I was still on rental, I would be crying. The extra fee is like Shylock’s ‘pound of flesh’ and well, I’d be bleeding,” he said, quoting from Shakespeare.
Despite the “steep fee”, to extend or not to extend is not the question for the bigger nightclubs on the three party nights. “Calcutta has a limited clubbing crowd. If a popular nightclub like us doesn’t take benefit of this extension, somebody else will pull the crowd. This extension makes sense for us,” said Arvind Bhatnagar of Shisha, on 22 Camac Street.
Till the clampdown in March 2012, clubs had to pay Rs 1,500 a night for police fee and about Rs 3,000 every hour to stay open till 2am. The jump in fees will hurt smaller clubs but bigger ones, that make “around Rs 30 lakh a month”, according to an insider, will raise a toast.
Another modification is the increase of the annual bar licence fee for five-star hotels, up from around Rs 2 lakh to 15 lakh. “The round-the-clock extension is perhaps welcome for our international guests arriving on late-night flights. However, we note with some concern the steep increase in annual renewal fees,” said K. Mohanchandran, GM, Taj Bengal.
Party regulars are seeing this as a new beginning or a rewind to the good ol’ nights. “I usually come to Calcutta during weekends and I am too tired to go out clubbing early. There was a time when the party scene was rocking and on till four in the morning. If the clubs are open till 2am, we can at least hope to get back to our golden days!” said Surya Datta, an engineer.
“There’s no fun clubbing if there’s a Cinderella hour. We need more time to sit, relax and then enjoy the party. With the extra hour, I can now easily go out with my family for dinner and then go out clubbing without worrying about the deadline,” said Avanti Murarka, a businesswoman.
With nightclubs open till 2am and star hotels saying cheers all night long, it’s time for Calcutta to go 1,2,3,4... get on the dance floor.
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