The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Park Street goes to Delhi pubs

New Delhi, July 4: What Calcutta savoured years ago, Delhi might soon get a taste of.

The Sheila Dikshit governmentís excise department is considering lifting restrictions on live bands in restaurants and pubs. At present, only five-star hotels in the capital are allowed the luxury.

However, the ban on dance performances will stay.

In Calcutta, live bands have been an integral part of dining out at Park Street for decades. Old-timers fondly remember the sixties when Pam Crain, Louis Banks and Usha Uthup struck the right notes at Trincas before going on to make it big.

Upcoming bands in the capital, now restricted to five-star hotels and weddings or big dos, would be hoping the opening up of restaurant gates will give their careers the much-needed push.

Palash Senís Euphoria is the only big band the city has thrown up, followed by the limited success of Parikrama and now Orange Street.

While Union minister for tourism Renuka Chowdhury is all for night life and Delhi chief minister Dikshit wants all-night bazaars, a little relaxation in excise rules is all it will take to make dining out more fun in the capital.

But regulars at Delhiís pubs and restaurants say the problem with having a live band is that the equipment has to be very good. As it is very expensive to organise performances here, it is usually simpler to hire disc jockeys who will play a range of music that appeals to all sections of people.

The excise department is known to tread cautiously. While there have been demands to extend the timings of serving liquor in restaurants to 1 am, it does not look like the government will accede to them this year. In the past, proposals to start selling wine and beer in department stores have been made, only to be brushed aside under political pressure.

But in 2002, the excise policy was liberalised to allow sale of liquor and this was followed by a boom in the restaurant and pub business. With another policy change in sight, musical groups must be looking forward to another boom.

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