News & Cues: Deadlines, Licenses and Live Music in Bangalore

by Manojna Yeluri

Most people in Bangalore will tell you that the extended deadline for restaurants, pubs and venues has had a pretty big impact on the socio-cultural life of the city. This recent decision to permit venues to stay open for longer has given audiences the opportunity to listen to extended sets by their favourite musicians, and also to be introduced to new artists who might be opening for an act scheduled to perform later that night. The attitude towards live music in the city has definitely undergone a change, most notably this year, with more venues opening up, more Indian as well as international artists choosing to perform in the city, and of course, a deadline that allows establishments to remain open until 1 a.m.

In the recent past, the city’s musicians, venues and music lovers have had to contend with a spate of issues, the most problematic of them being the issuance of a series of notices to venues and restaurants, explicitly banning them from hosting any live music. Some of the most popular venues in the city received these notices from the police, who referred to the Karnataka Excise Rules, claiming that the rules prohibited live music and dance at any place serving alcohol.

The Karnataka Excise License (General Conditions) Rules (1967) and the Karnataka Police Act (1963) prohibit live entertainment by way of musical instruments, referring to them as a source of annoyance and noise. An archaic set of provisions, often conveniently raised from obscurity, sections of these rules made it possible for the police to barge into venues and interrupt artists in the middle of their performances, sometimes seizing musical instruments and other equipment.

Most recently around 2009, the state government reaffirmed that all live entertainment had to cease as early as 10 p.m., making evening performances impractical. The trickiest bit was that there was no way to ascertain when or how the statutes would be enforced, leaving artists, venue owners and event organizers in a continual state of uncertainty and stress.

The extension of the closing deadline for establishments, with nearly no mention of the Karnataka Excise License Rules, might suggest that the city’s officials are changing their tune. With the first year of the relaxed deadline drawing to a close soon, some music festivals right around the corner, and an increasing number of international acts in the pipeline, it is going to be interesting to see whether the state government’s attitude is only going to become more favourable to live music, and if so, how.  

 

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