In Retrospect

When the lights go out...

As the Maximum City goes 24x7, here’s a new trend that’s waiting to be born in India. If implemented with proper infrastructure, the project has the potential to provide the much-needed impetus to its night-time economy, generate employment, mark a breakaway from the rigours of social conundrum and set a grand precedence for other cities as well 

Mumbai is all set to keep its malls, multiplexes, shops and restaurants open 24x7 from January 27, which in turn seems to be the start of a vibrant night culture in India, beginning with the country's financial capital.

The very thought is uber cool, no-poser and trance-like. The idea is to implement it in phases, and in the first stage, shops, restaurants and multiplexes at malls and mill compounds situated in non-residential areas will be allowed to remain open. The plan will take the city back to its flourishing nightlife of the early 2000s, which met with a roadblock when the administration decided to clamp down all dance bars in 2005.

Among the designated areas are Nariman Point, Kala Ghoda, Bandra Kurla Complex and the hotspots of Kamala Mills Compound.

Bars and pubs are not part of this 24x7 plan. They will shut at 1.30 am as usual, as per the existing rules of the state excise department.

The project, to be introduced on an experimental basis, will eventually come to life once the city Metro rail network is fully operational and stations are connected to shopping malls by sky-bridges.

Initiated with an aim to maximise job creation, attract investment, and promote a better quality of life for citizens, the project is being viewed as one that will realistically turn Mumbai into a city that never sleeps.

A metropolis with a massive migrant population, Mumbai will definitely appreciate this openness and by allowing the market forces to flow freely, it may also spur employment considerably.

This new experiment can be replicated in other major cities of India as well, Delhi being one of them. If the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is back in power, the national Capital may witness a similar step. AAP's detailed manifesto for the 2020 Assembly polls is said to have this promise.

A senior AAP leader says: "AAP is of the view that the government should work on making 24x7 functioning of the metropolis in Delhi. The manifesto committee of the party is also considering this issue and if we can create a detailed plan, then the party will include this in our manifesto. The main concern for us is the security of women but as most of the malls in Delhi, like Select Citywalk at Saket, Santushti shopping complex at Chanakyapuri, the Rohini shopping complex and Nehru Place are in residential areas, we need to look into the security aspect as well. So, we have a plan to extend this 24x7 project at markets like Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, and other places. If everything goes fine, we will launch it on a pilot basis."

If this has to be a success, proper infrastructure must be in place. Agencies in Delhi will have a bigger challenge in hand, as when compared to Mumbai and most other major cities, the former is considered to be less safe for women, in terms of mentality openness of mind and ground conversations.

According to a senior Delhi Police official, if such a decision is implemented in the national Capital, then they would have to rework their security plans. "We will inform the government about our efforts to ensure the safety and security of one and all and what it actually involves," he said.

Another officer added that there will be a need for more manpower to handle such a plan, requiring a contribution from other stakeholders in maintaining law and order, along with the safety and security of people in general.

"Restaurants should have mandatory fire NOCs and proper fire-fighting mechanisms in place. It will not affect us much as in many incidents of fire, whether the premises are open or closed, we have to conduct late-night rescue operations. If something untoward happens, the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) is always ready to address it," maintains a senior official from the Delhi Fire Services (DFS).

Looking at international hotspots like New York, London and Amsterdam, a thriving nightlife is considered to be a sign of a vibrant economy.

Many years ago, London had a restricted nightlife and shops, pubs and restaurants used to shut early. This was eventually changed and London, now, owns the night, literally!

Cities like London have begun to measure the value of the night-time economy and the figures are staggering. London's culture and nightlife, from theatres to music venues to nightclubs, are iconic around the world. As the tipple hours were relaxed, it was witnessed that alcohol-related violence drastically came down over the years. This was quite surprising and encouraging too. More and more bars and eateries started to remain open till late which in turn boosted the nightlife economy.

After the Tube started operating almost throughout the night, more people began to experience London's unique cultural scene, without actually worrying about getting back home in the wee hours. It unlocked London's full potential of the night-time economy and proved to be a huge force in creating jobs and supporting hundreds of businesses across the city.

Sydney, Australia's capital and home to the signature winged Opera House, was once considered a world destination for travellers seeking life in the night.

Clearly, nightlife contributes to both a city's sense of global identity, to its local economy and to its attractiveness for foreign tourists.

Amsterdam is said to have pioneered the concept of 'Night Mayor'. Often misunderstood because of its conflicting reputation, this Dutch city offers so much more than just crazy parties and drug-fuelled soirees. It is a city full of life, history and beauty.

The after-hours' heart of a city famed around the world for night-time excess was overrun a few years ago. Earlier, there used to be a lot of noise, violence, vomit and nocturnal nuisance, which made Amsterdam's rather infamous squares turn into "4 am war zones".

But a few pairs of young, red-jacketed Rembrandtplein Hosts touring the stretches, chatting amicably to clubbers and drinkers, directing tourists and out-of-towners, completely changed the picture.

This pragmatic notion has been replicated across Europe: Toulouse, Zurich, Paris, and several other Dutch cities have 'Night Mayors'.

Much like Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Paris, Rome, New York, Chicago, Rome, Berlin and Prague have become famous over the years for their pulsating nightlife. Even Asian cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok have found ways to monetise their night-time. The $100 bar crawl of Hong Kong is now on almost every tourist's 'must-do' list while in the British-era Chinese metropolis. Similarly, Bangkok's electrifying nightlife has something to offer for all tastes and proclivities.

Late-night people are typically young, educated, creative and entrepreneurial — people you want in your city and who work in the creative industries and start-ups. If places like Berlin have flourished, it's not just because of low rents but essentially because these are nightlife capitals. However, not all cities have the same priorities.

Thus, it is always better that the night ends more naturally. It's not only good for the area, but it's also better for the restaurants and clubs, in terms of business, and for cities, in ways of nuisance management. Nightlife experience is a lifestyle thing. It is better to understand

the issues in-depth, from all quarters and come up with innovative solutions from which everyone benefits, leading to once-in-a-lifetime experience of what actually happens in a city when the lights go out.

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