Noisy beyond the deadlines

The state government had just got serious about a 2005 rule that mandated a license to play recorded music at pubs. For the local residents, rendered sleepless by the late night music excesses, it was time to heave a collective sigh of relief. (DH illustration)

It was well past midnight on 12th main road, Indiranagar. Hundreds hung around the pubs and bars that flanked the street, their feet dancing in sync with the thumping music that blared out loud. Life was one big, unbridled celebration as young men and women in their cars, SUVs and fancy bikes joined in style. And then, the music suddenly stopped.

In that frantic, angry search for reason, both the pub-goers and pub-owners confronted a tricky new reality: The state government had just got serious about a 2005 rule that mandated a license to play recorded music at pubs. For the local residents, rendered sleepless by the late night music excesses, it was time to heave a collective sigh of relief.

Old rule, refreshed

For years, the Licencing and Controlling of Places of Public Entertainment (Bangalore City) Order, 2005 was in cold storage. The inaction had allowed the outlets to mushroom on main roads across Indiranagar, disturbing the neighbourhood peace forever.

By taking the belated step, the State’s calculation is this: Pub-owners know their outlets would not appeal to the young customers without music, and so would line up for licences and other permits. But there is a catch, and this is exactly what gives the residents hope.

To obtain a license to play recorded music, pub-owners will have to furnish a set of key documents: The building plan sanctioned by the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), No Objection Certificates (NOCs) issued by the Fire and Emergency Department and Bescom.

Illegalities galore

Now, this assumes that many pubs were allowed to function without these critical permissions all these years. Bribery, favouratism and high connections played a big role. If that were so, how will the Palike change the rules now? Residents have been complaining that many outlets had sprung up in the locality illegal, clearly violating the zonal regulations.

Will the new vigour in implementation of the rules be sustained? Bar owners are upset, pub-goers are unhappy, and employees of these outlets lament that they will be losing their jobs. But the City police commissioner T Suneel Kumar has made it clear that the outlets will be shut down if the necessary licenses are not furnished.

Kumar’s contention is this: The outlets were given sufficient time once the Supreme Court upheld the 2005 Government Order. Notices were issued to 400 pubs and bars and restaurants playing music to obtain compulsory licence from the city police within 15 days, or face closure.

Upset musicians

Musicians are upset by the turn of events, particularly the ban on live bands. A band has even started an online petition, drawing attention to the livelihood of those who earn from pub shows. They contend that the outlets do not promote crimes by playing live music. As for noise pollution and disturbing neighbourhoods, sound-proofing is being talked about as an option.

But this is not just about loud music, reasons Vijayan Menon from the Citizen’s Action Forum. “Nobody has a problem with bands and music. If the building is illegal, it has to go. Let us not turn this into a sob story of livelihoods. Let us, for once, follow the law,” he says.

Taking their frustrations online, the Indiranagar 1st Stage Residents Welfare Association tweeted in response to the musicians’ lament: “Then murdering for livelihood should be fine too? Illegal is illegal. Period. The pubs and bars can play music and run their shows as long as all their activities are legal. But here they are a law onto themselves! What about our lives here - no sleep, no safety, no peace?”

Deadline extension

Local residents, who had settled in Indiranagar decades ago, had chosen the place for its celebrated serenity and peace. They had collectively resisted in vain the blatant commercialisation of the zone, once clearly earmarked as residential. But the extension of deadline to 1 am for bars and pubs pushed their problems almost to a point of no return.

Elaborates a citizen activist from the area, preferring anonymity: “A lot of elderly people stay in houses in close proximity to these pubs. They are just not able to sleep. Their windows vibrate because of the loud, deafening noise. The 1 am deadline stretches to 4 am, the customers shifting their revelry to the interiors of Indiranagar.”

Court ruling

The apex court, in its order, had clearly indicated the remedial action required in case of the noise pollution. The order said, “The Commissioner shall ensure that no noise pollution is caused to residents of the nearby area due to any of the three performances in any restaurant and that remedial steps are taken in that behalf.”

Despite this clear order by the court, residents were in for a shock when they complained of loud music to the jurisdictional Deputy Commissioner of Police. The DCP (East), Ajay Hillori expressed his ignorance about the apex court order in a twee that read: “ I would like to invite you to my office. Plz come and show me that order. I would really like to go through that order line by line, word by word, ‘along with you’.”

The residents were left wondering how an officer, in charge of the hub of pubs, could be unaware of the order.

(With inputs from Umesh R Yadav)

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Noisy beyond the deadlines


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