PICTURES

After a decade, Mumbai’s infamous dance bars could reopen

Quartz india
Quartz india

For about two decades, Mumbai’s famous dance bars played many roles: entertainment for the middle class, employment for countless migrant women, a meeting point for the city’s mafia and a smokescreen for alleged prostitution rings.

In 2005, there were some 600 dance bars in India’s financial capital, before the Maharashtra state government passed a law that banned them, as they had “a bad influence on society.”

Some of them continued to operate under police patronage, but most gradually shut down.

In 2013, following appeals by dancers, India’s supreme court quashed the ban. But the Maharashtra government passed another law in 2014 to ban dance bars. That was later challenged by restaurant owners.

On Oct.15, India’s supreme court stayed the ban by the state government, which could potentially allow dance bars to operate once again in the state.

“We are happy with the decision of the court,” Bharat Singh Thakur, president of the Dance Bar Association, told NDTV. “We always respected the dignity of women. We have been running dance bars since 1997, and there was no complaint against us on obscenity.”

“I am glad that the ban is being lifted. I will certainly visit the bars that I used to go to earlier as soon as they come into business again,” Mumbai-based independent filmmaker Tanmay Singh, who frequented dance bars in Mumbai’s Grant Road area before the 2005 ban for a script, told Quartz.

“After dance bars closed down, many bar girls that I knew had to take to prostitution to run their homes. Many others were forced to leave Mumbai and go back to their villages and live in poverty,” Singh said.

The supreme court, while staying the law, also asked the state government to “bring about measures which should ensure the safety and improve the working conditions of the persons working as bar girls.” Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, meanwhile, has said that his government will appeal against the court’s decision.

Here are a few pictures from 2005 when dance bars were still thriving.

Indian bar girls perform at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. The government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday endorsed the decree seeking to ban dance bars in the state. There are more than 600 dance bars in Bombay itself and the closure of cabarets is likely to render jobless more than 150,000 people across the state including dancers, waiters, bouncers and security guards. Picture taken on May 5, 2005.
A dancer performs at a bar in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
Indian bar girls perform at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. The government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday endorsed the decree seeking to ban dance bars in the state. There are more than 600 dance bars in Bombay itself and the closure of cabarets is likely to render jobless more than 150,000 people across the state including dancers, waiters, bouncers and security guards. Most bars in the state employ girls, who dress in colourful costumes and dance to Bollywood numbers, as customers showers them with bills. According to bar girl's union, majority of the 75,000 girls working in bars will be forced into the "flesh trade" due to the closure. Picture taken on May 5, 2005.
Bar girls perform at a dance bar in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
A customer showers Indian currency bills on a dancer at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. The government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday endorsed the decree seeking to ban dance bars in the state. There are more than 600 dance bars in Bombay itself and the closure of cabarets is likely to render jobless more than 150,000 people across the state including dancers, waiters, bouncers and security guards. Most bars in the state employ girls, who dress in colourful costumes and dance to Bollywood songs, as customers showers them with currency bills. According to bar girl's union, majority of the 75,000 girls working in bars will be forced into the "flesh trade" due to the closure. Picture taken on May 5, 2005.
A customer showers money on a dancer at a bar in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
A dance bar girl practices a dance step inside a changing room at Elora Bar in Bombay, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2005. The dance bars of Bombay, a city also known as Mumbai, are for many the most prominent part of its nightlife. Thousands of men visit them each night, watching and throwing money at young girls in titillating clothes as they gyrate to songs from Bollywood, the popular Indian film industry. There are some  700 dance bars in Bombay and 650 in the rest of the state employing some 75,000 dance girls. The Congress party-led state government this month ordered the closure of hundreds of bars across western Maharashtra state on grounds that the bars corrupted the youth.
A bar girl practices a dance step inside a changing room at Elora Bar in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Indian men walk past a display at the entrance of a dance bar in Bombay May 18, 2005. The government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday endorsed the decree seeking to ban dance bars in the state. There are more than 600 dance bars in Bombay itself and the closure of cabarets is likely to render jobless more than 150,000 people across the state including dancers, waiters, bouncers and security guards. Most Bars in the state employ girls, who dress in colourful costumes and dance to Bollywood numbers, as customers showers them with currency bills. According to Bar Girl's union, majority of the 75,000 girls working in bars will be forced into the "flesh trade" due to the closure.
Men walk past a display at the entrance of a dance bar in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
A dance bar girl, far left, join other staff members for a prayer at Elora Bar in Bombay, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2005. The dance bars of Bombay, a city also known as Mumbai, are for many the most prominent part of its nightlife. Thousands of men visit them each night, watching and throwing money at young girls in titillating clothes as they gyrate to songs from Bollywood, the popular Indian film industry. There are some 700 dance bars in Bombay and 650 in the rest of the state employing some 75,000 dance girls. The Congress party-led state government this month ordered the closure of hundreds of bars across western Maharashtra state on grounds that the bars corrupted the youth.
A dance bar girl, far left, joins other staff members for a prayer at Elora Bar, Mumbai. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
Indian bar girls perform at a dance bar in Bombay May 5, 2005. The government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra on Wednesday endorsed the decree seeking to ban dance bars in the state. There are more than 600 dance bars in Bombay itself and the closure of cabarets is likely to render jobless more than 150,000 people across the state including dancers, waiters, bouncers and security guards. Most bars in the state employ girls, who dress in colourful costumes and dance to Bollywood songs, as customers shower them with currency bills. According to bar girl's union, the majority of the 75,000 girls working in bars will be forced into the "flesh trade" due to the closure. Picture taken on May 5, 2005.
Indian bar girls perform at a dance bar in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
Dance bar owners shout anti-government slogans outside a dance bar during a protest in Bombay, India, Thursday, March 31, 2005. Over 1000 dancing bar joints in the city would down their shutters starting midnight Thursday to protest Maharashtra government's decision to close the bars in rest of the state, according to news agency reports.
Dance bar owners shout anti-government slogans outside a dance bar during a protest in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
A dance bar worker holds her child as she listens to a speech along with other workers at a protest rally in Bombay, India, Monday, April 4, 2005. Dance bar workers, fearing unemployment, protested Monday against Maharashtra state government's decision to close bars in the state outside of capital Bombay.
A dance bar worker holds her child as she listens to a speech along with other workers at a protest rally in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)
Indian bar girls shout slogans as they participate in a protest in Bombay May 3, 2005. Thousands of bar girls participated in a protest against Indian authorities decision to close down some 600 cabarets in the commercial capital Bombay, robbing the country's entertainment hub of one of its major attraction. Most Bars in the state employ girls, who dress in colourful costumes and dance to Bollywood film songs, as customers shower them with currency bills.
Indian bar girls shout slogans as they participate in a protest in Mumbai. (Reuters/Punit Paranjpe)
Bar girls and supporters demonstrate in Bombay on Tuesday, 03 May 2005 against the Maharashtra state government's decision to close dance bars in the state.There are 700 dance bars in country's entertainment capital and 650 in the rest of the state employing some 75,000 dance girls.
Bar girls and supporters demonstrate in Mumbai against the Maharashtra state government’s decision to close dance bars in the state. (EPA/STR)
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