Mumbaikars raise a toast! Rooftop bars in the city to reopen soon
By Meghna Mukherjee for Bombay Times on December 19, 2017
Known for its thriving and glamorous nightspots, Mumbai witnessed a dip in revellers when rooftop bars and restaurants had to down their shutters in March 2017, following a crackdown by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner, Ajoy Mehta. It was reported that these joints did not have the required licenses and permits to operate. However, after the state government and youth politico Aditya Thackeray’s initiation and not to forget, Mumbaikars’ relentless campaigning for the reopening of rooftop bars and restaurants in the city, BMC finally passed a new policy for the reopening of such places, in the first week of November this year. Hoteliers, restaurateurs and even customers are delighted with the turn of events.
According to Riyaaz Amlani, restaurateur and President of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), the shutting down of rooftop bars and restaurants in the city was an unnecessary bureaucratic issue. He says, “Mumbaikars can look forward to the reopening of rooftop restaurants in the first week of 2018. We have applied for the necessary permissions and they are expected to come through in the next 10-15 days.”
Riyaaz adds, “Mumbai has an amazing skyline and is complete with brilliant skyscrapers. Rooftop bars and restaurants are great for the city’s visibility and liveability aspects. I am glad that the government has taken such a progressive measure and introduced new policies. Our city can now compete with the nightlife of other places such as Bangkok, Hong Kong and even the US.”
Partygoers elated with the news
Adds Akash Sharma, investment banker, (29) who occasionally visits the sky bars in the city, “How can a metro like Mumbai not have such rooftop places open? I am glad that finally the authorities have realised that these bars and restaurants will add to Mumbai’s night scene and boost tourism.” Samriddha Saxena, a 28-year-old advertising professional adds, “It was extremely disheartening to find some amazing places shut down their rooftop section. But now that many places are going to reopen, I have already started planning how I am going to spend my weekends partying!”
Meanwhile, rooftop restaurants are working on their licences
Many patrons have been disappointed to find just a handful of eateries functioning, despite the new policy. They have been wondering why some rooftop restaurants continue to have their shutters down. An official from a restaurant in Lower Parel, says, “Right now, we are working on getting our required licenses and permits. Once we have the documents in place, we will soon open our doors to patrons. And this will happen very soon. Currently, our rooftop is open as a banquet.” Another staffer from a rooftop eatery in South Bombay, discloses, “We are planning to restart our rooftop services soon, as we have already applied for the required licenses. Currently, we are allowing our patrons to dine in the outdoor lobby area.”
The new policy for rooftop restaurants
Rais Shaikh, municipal councillor, BMC, says that though rooftop bars and restaurants were operating in the city for many years, there was a need to have a new policy with improvised safety regulations. He says, “A rooftop bar or a restaurant needs to follow some safety regulations and norms that guarantee that these places will not cause inconvenience of any nature to anybody.” Referring to the fresh policy issued by the BMC, Adarsh Shetty, President Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association, tells BT, “The policy sent out by the municipal commissioner states that a rooftop bar or a restaurant must explore safety standards — look for ways to ensure that they are following proper fire safety and kitchen norms. The earlier policy prohibited such places from installing a kitchen on the terrace. Only servicing was allowed there. But now, restaurants and bars have revised the policy and are in the process of revamping their current place to comply with the norms which have been stated.”
Sky bars can amp up the city’s nightlife; it’ll also boost its tourism and economy
Restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee feels that for a city like Mumbai which is known for its iconic party scene, the need for rooftop bars and restaurants is a must. He says, “It isn’t only about adding to the city’s economy, but also the nightlife which Mumbai is famous for. Rooftop eateries or skylands, as they are popularly known, overlook the beautiful skyline — something which this city already has (well-lit skyscrapers and the vast sea). It makes for an ideal spot for those who love to eat out and party. It’s a form of experiential dining. Also, in a space-starved city like Mumbai, vertical expansion is always a better option than expanding horizontally.”
What led to the earlier shutdown
This year, BMC found 36 rooftop eateries in Ward A (Colaba and Cuffe Parade) and in also other parts of the city (Western suburbs). Most of these dining places were sea-facing and would operate to attract tourists. The restaurants would take permission from BMC to set up a monsoon shed on their terrace, but would later convert the area into a rooftop eatery. Following the municipal commissioner’s direction, the BMC passed a directive to demolish these rooftop restaurants. Among those which shut down were Peninsula Grand (Saki Naka), Sea Palace (Colaba), AER (Lower Parel) and Asilo (Lower Parel). Adding to this, Rohan Mc’Guenny, an NRI who frequently visits Mumbai, says, “I can easily compare the nightlife of this city to the likes of San Francisco, Singapore and Dubai. People love to party in Mumbai and what better than skylands, which can give revellers a chance to dance under the glittering, breezy night sky! Not only the people of this city, but even foreigners love letting their hair down at parties that such rooftop places in the city have to offer.”
Now, Mumbai’s rooftop lounges will have to follow these guidelines
> Permission will be granted to open air terrace /part terrace/ common terrace (except refuge floor) only to those buildings which are commercial malls/residential hotel having existing eating house and lodging services available.
> No cooking/ preparation of eatables shall be allowed on the terrace with the help of LPG or open flame. Only induction/microwave to be used.
> The terrace to be used as a serving area shall not be covered with any temporary/permanent structure or materials. No monsoon shed / umbrella/ tarpaulin cover will be permitted. No erection of any fixtures/ frames will be allowed for covering. The terraces shall be kept open to sky all the time.
> Due care should be taken to avoid any complaints from the neighbourhood of the building regarding any nuisance. Under the new policy, existing malls and hotels in the city can have a dining place on the terrace, if there’s no residential building within 10 metres.
> The lighting/illumination and ambient noise quality on the terrace shall be conforming to the relevant provisions of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.
> NOC from Chief Fire Officer is mandatory and the compliance of fire safety conditions should be ascertained before issuing permission.