The price Mumbai paid in 8 years since the dance bar

Mumbai bar dancersStaff of a former ladies dance bar 'Falcon' at Mumbai's Grant road performing pooja after the Supreme Court verdict to reopen dance bars in Maharashtra. (Express photo)

A band of whitener began to conceal the word "dance" on the licences of 1,250 dance bars across Mumbai after they were banned on August 14, 2005. Many of them have since shut down. A lot else has changed between then and today, when the Supreme Court upheld a high court order striking down the ban.

Some 50,000 to 60,000 women lost their jobs, as did 40,000 men. Some of the women killed themselves, and 40 per cent were pushed into prostitution, says Anil Gaikwad, legal adviser for Indian Hotel and Restaurant Owners' Association, citing a government study. Bars converted into restaurants or orchestra bars, or shut down. And the government lost revenue.

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"For eight years in a row, the state lost an annual Rs 3,000 crore that it had earned from dance bars," says Gaikwad. Praveen Agarwal, general secretary, Bar Owners' Association, says, "The excise department wrote to the home department on the revenue loss. Nobody can deny that the state stands to gain and so does the industry as the footfall in a dance bar converts into increased consumption and sale of liquor." An official with the excise department says Rs 9,300 crore was collected from the state in 2012.

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Besides excise from liquor sales, each dance bar paid an excise fee of Rs 3,65,000 for a 12-month term and Rs 1,80,000 a year for a performance licence, which allowed it to feature women dancers and and stay open till midnight. The government issued in the early 2000s a resolution extending the deadline to 1.30 am. But when a minor was raped at Marine Drive in 2005, the official deadline for Mumbai's nightlife was pulled back to 12.30 am.

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