Not many businesses want to stay open all night
Allowing shops and commercial establishments to remain open 24X7, is a step towards making Bengaluru “a truly international city” with a vibrant nightlife, senior functionaries of the government said. However, the all-night business proposal has few takers and is expected to have little impact on Bengaluru’s nightlife.
A wide cross-section of traders is of the opinion that any such business will be unviable owing to the lack of an “all-night culture” and supporting public transport infrastructure.
“Our public transport shuts down by 11.30 p.m., which dictates the lifestyle pattern. Not many autos and cabs are available. Those that are charge a premium for late-night trips. In such a scenario, you can’t expect people to stay out late,” said the owner of an ice cream parlour.
Most of the independent shops in retail, including in market hubs like Commercial Street, Brigade Road, Jayanagar and Malleswaram, have ruled out operating through the night. Additional costs involved, such as hiring more labour and service utility charges, are unlikely to make good the additional business, said many owners.
The only ones expected to consider doing business all night are large supermarket chains, malls, cafes and certain eateries, sources said.
Uday Garudachar, who owns four malls in the city and is the BJP MLA from Chickpet, said that mall owners are likely to try it out as an experiment after discussions with retailers. “The city should have developed an all-night culture by now, given that we started being the back office of the world with the IT boom and catering to varying time zones from the mid-1990s. Being a laidback city, once called a pensioner’s paradise, probably culturally, it is not in us to become a city that never sleeps, like New York,” he observed.
However, he acknowledged that Bengaluru is changing rapidly and today boasts of a vibrant subculture in the night, especially in the food and beverages sector. “It is an experiment we need to carry out and see if the city responds,” he said.
Celebrity chef Manu Chandra, Bengaluru Chapter Head, National Restaurants Association of India, said that this would be a shot in the arm for the struggling food businesses. “Working hours are so heavily varied in Bengaluru that those who work late shifts are often left with no choice for meals. Packaged food cannot be the answer to everything. It’s not viable across the board, of course, but there will be several businesses that will see an upside. The late night economy globally caters to a small percentage of people. So, it’ll be applicable correspondingly to a small percentage of businesses,” he said.
But there is no enthusiasm in the F&B sector on expected lines, and the devil lies in the details. Those serving liquor are governed by the Karnataka Excise Act, 1965, which has strict deadlines and remains unchanged. Excise Commissioner Dr. Lokesh M. said there was no proposal to allow outlets to function 24 hours. Not just the bars, the entire sector, including food counters at establishments that serve liquor, are governed by these rules and will have to shut down early.
“Most of the restaurants and pubs that can viably be open all night also serve liquor. Hence, the impact of the order will be very limited,” said a pub owner.
The government’s decision to boost nightlife in the city has triggered panic in residential pockets, like Indiranagar, which is already fighting reckless commercialisation.
“If the eateries in residential areas decide to be open all night, our lives will become more miserable. Despite being residential areas, Indiranagar and Koramangala have the highest concentration of F&B establishments and have the potential to become all-night hubs for the entire city. If it does happen, we will be forced to counter the development legally,” said Sneha Nandihal of I Change Indiranagar.
This is also expected to create a huge challenge to policing in the city. “Our resources are already stretched. If the city really takes to all-night business, we will be under severe strain. But we expect this to take root only in certain hubs, including those with office spaces working night shifts,” said Police Commissioner Kamal Pant.