Sandeep Chandran: In terms of regulation, I suppose there is pressure across sectors which are related to the government or the police. Unfortunately, it seems that there is a lot of strain on us bar owners and it’s a lot more than in the real estate sector, for instance. The authorities don’t seem to understand that this is a business and that time is money. A delay of one month in getting a licence, for example, can affect salaries. I don’t think the administration should discriminate between businesses. At the end of the day, we are running a business like any other. There are no ethical or moral grounds for any business. I don’t think we should be judged because we sell alcohol.
Uniformity in regulation is the key. Treat it as any other business and keep it lenient. We are not doing anything illegal, not breaking any rules. We are paying taxes, possibly higher taxes than any other business.
Over the past 15 years or so, a lot more people have come from outside Bangalore. There might not be a clear understanding of how the pub scene works. People think that just because a Maximum Retail Price store sells beer for Rs 100, it would cost Rs 120 at a pub. Who is going to pay for the air conditioning, music and DJ, and overheads? Hopefully that will change.
About the 1 am regulation [deadline for bars to shut], I would like to see the administration provide infrastructure for people to stay out late. Now, if you go out at 1 am or even 11 pm there is nothing. You don’t get rickshaws and you don’t have streetlights in some places. The administration should encourage a system for people who work hard and late till 8 pm or 9 pm to go out and relax till 1 am, but provide infrastructure in terms of lighting, transport and security.
Also, there might be places selling spurious alcohol or running some kind of illegal show. There should be a way of identifying such places and differentiating them from us, because you can’t club all pubs together and generally say that this is a dirty business and so regulations are going to be tougher.
Vijay Kumar: We should not be judged or seen in a bad light just because we serve alcohol. We want to be what a pub really means – a public house for the people. We like people to associate themselves with this place. Even when they get married and go abroad, when they come back to Bangalore they should think, “I want to go back to the old adda” and come here.
I would like people to appreciate that a pub is not a place where you just drink. It is a social place where you can get a cup of coffee, you can bring your girlfriend or wife and it’s a place where everyone knows your name. People should recognize why we charge a little more than MRP.
If the authorities can do something about the traffic, it would change so many things. People wouldn’t mind just walking up to a pub, but it doesn’t happen because of traffic. We have so many reservations cancelled just because people are stuck in a jam.
And, of course, I wish that the government would go easy on excise for alcohol. Bangalore’s alcohol used to be very cheap in the ’90s – on par with Goa – and now most places, even Delhi, are cheaper than us.