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Clubs in Delhi in for a tough time as govt decides against renewal of bar licences

first_img“A cruel April Fool’s joke” was the reaction of one observer to the recent announcement that bar licences for all clubs in the Capital will not be renewed after March 31. But, considering the shattering effect the measure will have on the future of the clubs, and more important, on,”A cruel April Fool’s joke” was the reaction of one observer to the recent announcement that bar licences for all clubs in the Capital will not be renewed after March 31. But, considering the shattering effect the measure will have on the future of the clubs, and more important, on a large number of employees, the issue is anything but a joke.Apart from being the social hub of the affected clubs, the financial viability of almost all of them revolves around the bar proceeds. “All other facilities like tennis, squash, and swimming are heavily subsidized by most clubs – the only profitable outlet lies in the bar sales,” admitted an official of Delhi’s Chelmsford Club. While the Chelmsford Club and its peers hope to limp along because of the wide range of extra facilities they offer, it is the smaller clubs which will be fatally affected.With the exception of the Gymkhana Club, which has decided against retrenchment, all other clubs will have no alternative but to resort to it in order to survive. Rumours in club corridors suggest that more than 500 employees are expected to be retrenched from the 14 clubs in Delhi. In fact, a few clubs had seen the writing on the wall and have retrenched about 30 employees already.Characteristically, till March 16, none of the clubs had received any intimation from the Delhi Administration regarding the ban. Most of the club managements had, however, already reconciled themselves to the idea.”But we are not going to just sit back and accept this without a fight,” said a spokesman for the Chelmsford Club. “If necessary, we will take the issue to court. Though the chances of winning are dim, we will at least get a stay order till the case is over.”advertisementThis can, however, only be a temporary reprieve. The Government’s rigid prohibition policy is hardly likely to be relaxed for the sake of a few club owners and employees. “It is not a sudden decision. This was first indicated in October,” said Delhi’s deputy excise commissioner Chakravarty, adding, “At the most, we might give them an extra 20 days to dispose their liquor, but not to serve it in the clubs.”While most of the club owners are keeping their fingers crossed and sending petitions to the Delhi Administration in a feeble attempt to reverse the law, the more enterprising, like the Press Club, sent out their delegations to the prime minister with the plea that, as a special clientele, they should be exempted from the law – as in the case of army clubs – but to no avail.With a daily sale of Rs 1,200 to 1,500 on a non-dry day, the Press Club stands to lose more than 90 per cent of its income when the ban is implemented. “This place hasn’t been built like other clubs,” said its secretary, C.P. Bagga. “Less than five percent of the members come here to eat. Many come for a quick drink and, since it’s so close to the ministries, they come in between work. In fact, to many it is a second home.”The members of the club (journalists) are demanding special exemption for the bar. “If the army can have booze, why should we be different? It’s necessary to meet together and discuss news events. That’s how information gets around,” said one member.While they are busy petitioning, the club’s employees are desperately looking for alternative means to pull through the crisis. Thirty of them want to convert the club into a cafeteria, but that too poses problems. They will no longer be eligible for the present subsidized rent of Rs 1,100.There is, in fact, little choice for them but to pull down its shutters, like most of the other clubs. Roshanara Club – one of the oldest in Delhi – incurs a monthly loss of about Rs 10,000 for one extra dry day in the month.”We cannot possibly continue with the closure of the bar,” said one club spokesman. The same sentiment was echoed by the National Sports Club of India, which stands to lose approximately Rs 20,000 per month, and Chelmsford, which will face a loss of Rs 12,000 per month.Since a club is not an industrial unit, the retrenchment of staff cannot be dealt with under the Industrial Disputes Act. Though the Hotel Mazdoor Union intends to take up the matter with the management of the clubs involved, some of the victims would be grateful enough if they even obtain financial compensation.”This is it, I am afraid,” said one despondent club manager. “First it was the restriction on the entertainment of guests in the clubs, reduction of guest nights, heavy increase in the licence fee, high duty on beer etc. Now they have crippled us financially. All our pleas will come to nothing.”advertisementJudging by the reaction of the deputy excise commissioner, the closure of the clubs will elicit scant sympathy from the powers that be. “Policies are made high up,” said Chakravarty tersely. “Our job is to implement them, not question them.”last_img

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