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BMC to overhaul licence rules for restaurants



In a move that is going to tighten the leash around the city’s burgeoning hotel and restaurant industry, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta has proposed a new set of rules that the BMC has to follow while issuing licences to eating houses.

The new rules, which will be a part of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation (MMC) Act after Mehta brings out an official circular, come in the wake of the Kamala Mills fire tragedy that claimed 14 lives on December 29 last year.

According to the revised licence granting procedure — a draft a copy of which is with Mirror — the major responsibility of issuing licences to restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs will now lie with the assistant engineer of BMC’s building and factories (B&F) department, whose role had been completely eliminated in the previous set of rules framed in 2016, along with the chief fire officer (CFO).

In another addition, the picture of the restaurant premises, along with the dates of fire NOCs received by the applicant restaurants, will be uploaded on BMC portals to ensure transparency.

On March 3, 2016, the BMC had issued a circular for a revised licence granting procedure, doing away with the role of assistant engineer (B&F) for Ease of Doing Business. This meant that files related to eating houses stopped going to this department.

But under the proposed procedure, the restaurant owners will have to submit their application to medical officer of health (MOH) of the ward concerned, who will then refer it to the ward assistant engineer (B&F) and chief fire officer for inputs.

A bid has been made to make the assistant engineer more accountable as he will have to check whether any notices are pending against the premises, whether the building is dilapidated and has permissions for commercial use. The assistant engineer will then submit remarks to the MOH within 10 days from the date of application.

If he fails to submit his remarks to MOH within 10 days, then the assistant commissioner of the ward concerned will issue a showcause notice to him, as to why scrutiny wasn’t done within 10 days. This will be followed by a full-fledged departmental inquiry.

The draft further states that when the application is forwarded to the fire department, it should also be forwarded to the station officer of the “fire prevention cell”.

Another interesting clause introduced by Mehta states that the BMC portal will have all the 43 codified requirements required for compliance of fire prevention.

“The applicant (restaurant owner) should give an undertaking about the compliance done by him and the station officer should verify by doing an inspection within 10 days. If there are certain shortcomings found or additional requirements suggested by the station officer with reasons, then the restaurant owner is required to comply with those suggestions and reapply. If all other parameters required for fire compliance are found satisfactory, then an NOC should be given by the station officer to MOH. While the restaurant owner gives the compliance report, he should also upload the picture of the premises to show the compliance done along with the date,” says the proposed regulations.

Subsequently, the health department staff will inspect the premises from health and hygiene point of view and report whether all requirements have been met with. The proposal will then be processed and after approval of the assistant commissioner concerned, the fees will be generated. “After payment of necessary fees by the applicant, licence will be generated in the system with all the disclaimers and footer, stating that this license does not in any manner give authenticity to the structure,” says the document.

Hereafter comes the most crucial role of the fire compliance cell.

The chief fire officer (CFO) will carry out random inspection of all the premises, displayed on the BMC’s portal. The portal will also clearly show what are the norms and guidelines for periodic inspection to be done by the compliance cell.

The onus of checking on all requirements of the health and fire departments rests with the IT department.

If at any time, the premises are found nonfire compliant during inspection by the compliance cell, licence will stand revoked. For licence renewal, existing practice shall be followed. However, information about all such renewed licences have to be displayed on the portal.

Mehta is also proposing changes under the MMC Act’s section 471, which deals with revocation of licences in case of violation of terms of agreement.

“Other than the above measures, the municipal chief has also proposed a stringent clause that says that licence of a particular restaurant will be revoked after two seizure actions and three inquiry reports if licence conditions are violated. After issuing the fire NOC, if afire officer observes that a restaurant isn’t fire compliant, the licence can be revoked. The penalty for violation of licence agreement, which is currently a mere Rs 1,000, will be also increased,” said a senior civic official.

The overhaul of the civic body’s licence issuing rules was only imminent after the blaze at 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro, which were found to have majorly flouted licence terms to serve hookah to guests and take up illegal constructions on the rooftop restro-bars.

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