Pubs in New Delhi ordered to stop playing recorded music

The Delhi government has ordered all such establishments in the city to follow an old rule that only permits live music performances. PHOTO: ST FILE

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - On any night at pubs and restaurant-bars in India's capital city, a mostly cool and hip crowd sip their favourite cocktails and shake a leg to blaring music.

That's likely to stop.

The Delhi government has ordered all such establishments in the city to follow an old rule that only permits live music performances and not the playing of recorded music or use of professional disc jockeys who spin popular Bollywood tracks.

The government said it was enforcing the rule after receiving complaints from local residents about the nuisance caused by such bars, according to an order issued last week that only gained public attention on Monday (May 21).

The move is likely to lead to a tussle between the local government and more than 1,000 bars, worried about their survival.

A senior member of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) called on the city authorities to withdraw an order he said was "bizarre" and "regressive".

"We'll become a laughing stock for the world," said the frustrated NRAI official, who declined to be named. "The government is citing this obtuse fine print in law, it will affect tourism and quality of life."

The customers are not happy either.

"Music is a huge part of how you unwind, you are taking away that space," said R. Kumar, a New Delhi-based communications professional and a frequent partygoer.

The pub scene in India's capital has evolved over the years.

Hundreds of small and large pubs have mushroomed across the city to tap youngsters for whom music, alcohol and global cuisines have become an integral part of entertainment.

But late-night loud music at pubs - many of them located close to residential areas in the metropolis of more than 20 million people - has become an irritant for those living near.

Praveen Mishra, a senior official who signed off on the Delhi state's order, said the government was only enforcing an old rule governing pubs.

The pubs are "permitted only to have live singing/playing of instruments by professionals" within their premises, Mishra said in his order last week. "Violations of these rules shall lead to strict action as per law."

It is unclear how the government will regulate the sound from live performances, which are now likely to increase in number.

The Times of India newspaper quoted a Delhi official saying the rules were "silent" on whether professionals should sing with or without a mike, and what the volume should be.

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