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Bar owners in Mumbai allege cops shut bars down before deadline

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Thanks most likely to a misunderstanding of orders given by newly-appointed commissioner of police Sanjay Barve, bar and restaurant owners in the city are quaking in their boots. Barve had issued a strict diktat, asking for stringent action to be taken against police officers going soft on eating and drinking establishments and allowing them to operate beyond the 1:30 am deadline. Instead, several officers have allegedly been terrorising the establishments into closing early to follow ‘sahab’s orders’.

Ever since Barve’s appointment, local cops have allegedly been landing up at bars and restaurants late at night for surprise checks, fearing departmental inquiry for not keeping them in order. In doing so, they are putting undue pressure on the establishments by deploying additional teams to go there and force them to shut shop way before the 1.30 am closing time. All the teams are saying is – sahab ka order hai (sir’s orders).

Turns out, Barve’s actual orders were to act against cops who aren’t doing their duty. However, bar and restaurant owners have become an unlikely target. Several spoke to mid-day about what they’ve been going through over the past 10 days.

Local cops have allegedly been landing up at bars and restaurants late at night for surprise checks, fearing departmental inquiry for not keeping them in order. Representational Image

‘Law abiding citizens’

The owner of a popular restaurant and dance bar from Santacruz said, “Since the past 10 days, I’ve been forced to close the restaurant by 12 am, because cops are sitting inside in plain clothes. ‘Sahab ka order hai’ is the only reason we’ve been given for this action, despite having the licence to run till 1.30 am. We are not involved in any illegality. We’re law-abiding citizens.”

A nightclub owner from Juhu said, “Everyone is tense because the cops land up at any time and ask us to shut the club to ensure their job is safe. Plainclothes cops are sitting inside [establishments] everywhere. This has been happening for the past few days. I’m being told ‘upar se order hai’ (we’ve got orders from above). But I want to know, how are we at fault? We’re doing our business and cooperating with the police all the time. This is causing a huge loss to our business.”

Fearing action from cops, some of the owners even shut their bars for a few days last week. They claim the cops are treating them as criminals. “I’ve not opened my restaurant since the past three days fearing the  drama of local cops. This is unnecessary harassment. Cops forced me to put the shutters down at 11 pm as if I am a criminal. I have a licence to run till 1.30am, but who cares about the law? We have informed AHAR to look into it,” said the owner of a restaurant in Andheri East. Another bar owner from Chembur added, “I have also been forced to shut down before deadline like the others. I don’t want make any other comment otherwise there will be more trouble for us.” Barve declined to comment on the allegations.

Speaking to mid-day, prominent restaurateur Riyaz Amlani said, “If this is happening despite establishments having licences to run till 1.30 am, then instead of moving forward, we are going backwards. I have not received any complaint from my staff till now.”

Juniors miffed with Barve

Meanwhile, another set of cops who are in favour of Barve’s diktats and disciplinary action claim junior-level officers are upset with his high-handedness. They have been harassing hoteliers so that their lobby complains to the government to act against the police chief. Barve’s orders are clear: he just wants cops to ensure nobody’s open for business beyond the deadline.

A police officer from a south Mumbai station disagreed, claiming, “The secret officers of commissioners enter the premises of bars and act against them even after they are winding up their business. We are left with no choice but to ensure the bar is shut before the deadline so that there is nothing left to raid at 1.30 am.”

In pursuance of this, cops are stationing themselves inside the establishments. “Cops are sitting inside well in advance as if they have come here to deal with a criminal. To improve their ratings among their superiors we have been targeted for no reason,” said a dance bar and restaurant owner from south Mumbai.

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