The growth of a city that houses a large tippler population has always had a problem with bars in residential areas, and there’s no way out, says Nirad Mudur
he issue of bars within residential areas is becoming more a question of right or wrong rather than anything to do with the law. Although there is an existing rule that prohibits bars within a 100-metre radius of schools/ colleges or operating within residential areas, there is a clamour among tipplers for having them close by, citing them to be ideal places for “social gathering” at the end of the day. Whether that is true or not may be decided by a twisted trend that has emerged in the booze paradise that is Bangalore that is directly impacting household economics. The proximity of bars to residences is witnessing many tipplers paying money advances to managers/owners of their favourite watering holes close by -- on the sly, without informing their spouses/family members, in the opening days of the month when salaries are out. Against this advance, they are assured of their daily quota of pegs or beers. This is a system of reverse credit that is eating into the household budgeting at the end of the day; a system which the bar owners do not mind at all because their clientele is assured ahead of the sale being realised throughout the month. While womenfolk have blamed this on the proximity of the bars to their residences, the flip-ide is that their men would opt for watering holes closer to their workplaces, which means most of their commuting time (riding/driving) would be spent under the influence of alcohol -- a worrying problem in a city which has been haunted by drink driving cases and accidents connected with them. “One way you think of it is about the economic factor, but that is irrel-
case in point
Despite protest, wine store yet to be shifted
evant as far the distance from a residential area is concerned. Whether the bar is close or far away, people who are regulars would anyway go ahead and resort to making advance payments,” says Revathi Raman (name changed), whose husband, she says, sheepishly admitted to the habit of reverse credit paid to a bar close to their residence off Dr Rajkumar Road in Rajajinagar. “Now, if I tell him to stop it, I know he may do the same at a bar closer to his office in Indiranagar.” But the immediate trigger against having bars in the residential neighbourhoods is the factor of nuisance. “The problem with bars in residential areas is that men get drunk and when they lose their inhibitions, the behaviour and the words some of them use scare women passing; and it has a negative influence on the kids in the area,” says Kavita Mohan, a cashier in a scheduled bank and a resident of Mathikere, where several bars have been operating since years close to residential areas. Her problem is that her husband, a marketing man, has to travel often and her son and daughter, both adolescents, are alone at home on Triveni Road. Kavita is a staunch opponent of not just bars in residential areas, but the very existence of bars. That her husband is a teetotaler, explains just how strongly she feels about it. Cases wherein drunk men, after losing inhibitions at the watering holes near residential areas, and misbehaving with women while taking strength from being a a part of a drunken mob, have time and again formed the trigger for residents to protest against bars within their residential areas.
A 25-year-old woman (does not want to be named), a resident of Magadi Road which is also home to a string of bars, while walking to a drugstore to fetch some medicines from a neighbourhood drugstore, brushed past a drunk man who was staggering along. It was just 9 pm. But the result was scary. When the drunk man started hurling expletives at her, scores of inebriated men rushed at her from at least three bars and surrounded her. Although in a state of panic, she remembered she had the number of one of the sub-inspectors of Magadi Road police station, and called him. It was sheer luck for her that he reacted quickly and was at the spot within minutes to get her out of the situation. But the experience taught her what it means to have bars close to residential areas. However, no action could be taken against the very existence of bars close to residential areas. “It’s a wellknown fact that licences are given for us to operate wherever we want, and we keep the cops happy,” says a bar manager, who adds that the police in fact look forward to an additional bar in their jurisdiction because that is “added income” (read ‘bribe’) for them. Considering the huge baggage of negatives surrounding bars allowed licences in residential areas, in October 2011, residents of Prasanna Layout in Herohalli, showed the way by protesting against the opening of a bar and restaurant close to their residence and sparked a public protest and a political fight between a local corporator and a senior BJP leader. That is also why, just a few day ago, Karnataka high court, took up a suo
motu public interest litigation (PIL) based on a letter written by a citizen alleging that more than 50% of the bars and wine stores were given licences to operate in residential areas, posing a menace to the residents and senior citizens. The citizen, Raja Rao, in his letter to Karnataka chief justice, Justice DH Waghela, also alleged that bars and wine stores did not have proper urinals, which led to the drinkers urinating in public to cause embarrassment to the residents, the womenfolk in particular. There is also a problem where bars had come up in locations where residential areas were far away, but the rapid growth of the city, enveloped such bars with residences, the residents of which then questioned the existence of bars within their localities. “That’s when the police come into the scene and take advantage of the situation, knowing well that they have to appease both parties (the bar owner as well as the residents) and then find a way to grease their palms,” says bar owner in Rajajinagar, whose watering hole has stood the test of time for almost three decades amid residential blocks. Similar is the case in faraway Champaign in East Central Illinois in USA, where a bar named The Neighbours At The Ice House found itself in a spot, according to a report in NewsGazette that serves readers in that region where the city officials sought to end the expiration date of the bar’s licence which was initially sought as it found itself in residential area despite not being so when it was opened the 1920s. Now, according to the report, the city’s zoning ordinance turned into
an issue as “the bar had existed under early, lenient rules, but as city officials began to put new regulations on their properties throughout the last century, they (the bar) were deemed ‘nonconforming’.” But the tide changed when several residents voiced in favour of the bar to continue existing, saying that it was ideal for social gatherings in the neighbourhood. And that found favour with the officials too. “They do become a social gathering place,” planning director Bruce Knight was quoted in the report. “If nothing else, I guess it’s a deterrent to drinking and driving.” In December, 2011, the report states, the city council changed its zoning to “neighborhood commercial”, which allowed the bar to stay open indefinitely, so long as it followed the rules that it can only operate from 11 am to 11 pm from Monday to Saturday. The one thing in favour of bars or resto-bars in the residential neighbourhoods is that mostly the customers would be from the neighbourhoods and there would indeed be some conscious effort not to get uncontrollably drunk to turn into a spectacle in front of neighbours. This, besides the cutting down of drink driving opportunities if the bars are in proximity of their homes do stand in favour of having bars in residential areas, especially in a city that is largely alcohol-friendly. But to have that, strong enforcement and civic conscience would be required. Now that would be something to think about.
Y Maheswara Reddy l @ymrconnect
sance at the entrance of Doddagunte where Sri Balaji Wines is located. Disgusted with the nuisance of drunkards, Doddagunte Cox Town Residents’ Association appealed to MLA S Raghu to come to their rescue. Raghu appealed to excise minister MP Renukacharya to do the needful. Responding to the letter from Raghu, Renukacharya directed the excise commissioner to take measures to shift Sri Balaji Wines. The excise department asked excise inspector of Jeevan Bima Nagar
to visit the spot and submit a report to deputy commissioner of excise. The report submitted by the excise inspector stated Sri Balaji Wines was situated just 20 metres away from Government Library, Vinayaka Temple and Narasimha Swamy Temple. It also stated that the residents had no peace and safety due to the wine store. Based on the report, the deputy commissioner of excise department, Bangalore West, directed Gopalaiah, owner of Sri Balaji Wines, to explain
why the wine store should not be shifted. Gopalaiah filed an appeal and the case is still pending in the court. NS Ravi, president, Bharathinagar Residents’ Welfare Association, said “We will continue our fight till Sri Balaji Wines store is shifted to another place from the entrance of Doddagunte. It has become a nuisance for women and students. We hope the authorities concerned take measures to relocate this wine store as early as possible.”
Here is a classic example of liquor businessmen doing things their own way. The residents of Doddagunte have been fighting for the eviction of a wine store that has become a nuisance for them, especially for the women of the area. They have been running from pillar to post to convince the authorities concerned on the need to relocate Sri Balaji Wines. They complained that drunkards had been creating a nui-
(With inputs from Deepthi MR) @cloudnirad / email@example.com