In a cabinet decision on January 22, the Maharashtra state government allowed shops, malls, and eateries to remain open 24x7. Maharashtra tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, who had floated this idea a few years back, said the decision will “boost the nightlife in the city” and strengthen Mumbai’s claim as an “international city”. The decision, however, does not change the cut off time for serving alcohol inpubs, which is set at 1.30 am as of now. Aaditya Thackeray also said that the government's decisionwould drive tourism, create jobsand help the economy.
The decision sparked a spirited debate in many other metropolises and tier-II cities as to why they, too, should not consider similar initiatives. Writing in a column, author Shobha De suggested that Kolkata and Pune could follow suit, had infrastructure not been an issue in those two cities. According to others, Bengaluru could also follow the example, given its booming IT industry. In most Indian cities, concerns over women’s safety and poor infrastructure, are the major deterrents.
Back in Mumbai, some restaurant chains and malls reacted positively to the decision and lauded it for bringing some zing to the city’s nightlife. McDonald’s initially said that they would keep at least seven outlets across the city open 24x7. A senior functionary of McDonald’s said the brand operates many 24x7 stores across the globe and has seen considerable success and the same can be replicated in Mumbai.
Phoenix Marketcity, a high street shopping mall has announced to remain open till 5am on weekends, offering special discounts on 12-5am shopping, free drinks and freeparking for women. Leading restaurant chains like Smoke House Deli and Social have announced to stay open till 4am at malls like Phoenix Marketcity, KamalaMills, Palladium Mall and Oberoi Mall. They are also working on a late-nightmenu for their guests.
While shopping malls welcomed the move, they said it will not immediately lead to a boom in their business. On the flipside, without significant added revenue generation, keeping establishments such as malls open throughout the night can become unviable given the high cost of logistics and manpower.
Before the new rule kicked in on January 27, some malls kept their establishments open on January 24 and 25 to gauge the response. It was not encouraging. The mall managements then decided that they cannot stay open throughout the night on all days but can remain open till 3 am on weekends and on public holidays.
A major reason behind the skepticism on part of the mall managements is linked to the lack of access to public transport. The local trains that act as the lifeline of Mumbai stop running post-midnight, bringing the city to a halt. The bus service, too, is non-existent in late hours. Using regular taxis or app-based cabs is not an affordable option for the masses and as a consequence, the move to keep malls and restaurants open throughout the night may have limited takers. McDonald’s who had planned to keep its seven outlets in the city's most prestigious shopping malls open 24x7 could not keep its promise because the malls themselves were closed.
Despite not a great take-off, most mall managements agree that Mumbai being the financial capital of India, there is a potential of long-term success in having 24x7 malls and eateries. But they believe the government should focus on making public transport available throughout the night along with strengthening the public security system for this initiative to be successful.