Cops aim at ‘smoking out’ bars employing women

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Bangalore: The city police aren’t letting up in their witch-hunt against places of public entertainment. After serving an ultimatum on happening places like Skyye, Shiro’s and Biere Club to stop playing music for their patrons by 10 pm, citing a 2005 Supreme Court order, the police are contemplating action against bars employing women as bartenders under the provisions of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA). In plain English, they plan to tell these bars: Either have separate chambers for smokers or do not allow customers to smoke. Or else, we will book you and recommend cancellation of your licence.

Senior police officers are reportedly giving the finishing touches to the notice, which will go out to these bars, popularly known as service bars, over the next two or three days.

“These service bars have become dens of prostitution and other immoral activities. They are taking refuge under an apex court order which allows employment of women in bars. Under the pretext of employing women, these bar owners have hired dubious persons. We need to tame them and bring about some order. Hence, we are thinking of applying the provisions of COTPA,’’ a senior police officer said.

As per the Act, if an eatery or bar allows smoking in its premises, it should provide a separate chamber or smoker’s zone. According to the cops, a majority of service bars operate from dingy places and have customers smoking all over the place, which is illegal as per the Act.

Several bar owners feel the proposed police action smacks of vendetta, as in the past bar owners have approached the high court against the high-handed ways of the cops.

A bar owner, on the condition of anonymity, said, “In June, the state government and the police almost succeeded in stopping us from employing women, claiming that some bars were violating the Supreme Court order. But the High Court gave us permission to employ women and we were back in business. The police are now bent on taking revenge.”

Another bar owner said, “Almost all customers who come to our bars smoke and drink, so where is the question of harming others through ‘passive’ smoking? We would understand the official logic if it applied to exclusive eateries.”

The bars are afraid of losing business as most of them operate in congested areas and it would be difficult for them to set aside a separate space for smokers.

A private firm employee asked, “Do the police want me to sit at home and drink or smoke in front of my parents? We want places where we can smoke and drink without being disturbed or disturbing anyone. Besides, our parents themselves permit us hanging out with friends, so why are the police worried?”

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