Nightlife in Kathmandu FORMER Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam was not the one to mince his words. Soon after assuming office in 2008, Gautam banned nightlife establishments in Kathmandu from operating past 11 pm. The hundreds of bars, discos and restaurants, in his words, fostered “criminal activities during the night,” and hence the new rule. Now the government is once again preparing to relax the ban in order to promote nightlife in Kathmandu Valley. The government has shown its wiliness to be a little lenient on the condition that nightlife entrepreneurs are ready to better regulate their businesses, mainly so that the city’s fragile security situation is not further compromised. The government’s is a valid reservation. But it is also true that a vibrant city like Kathmandu, where hundreds of thousands of tourists flock every year from all parts of the globe, needs a healthy nightlife. It is indeed a disgrace to witness baton-wielding police chase away tourists who are having a good time soon as the clock strikes 11.
But it is also true that many of these establishments have proven to be nuisance for those living in the vicinity, as very few of them have sound-proof equipment. Many residents living in the vicinity of the popular tourist hotspots at night also complain of constant din of traffic. Soundproofing nightlife establishments and installing alternative lighting systems should help minimize these nuisances to a degree. Likewise, installation of CCTV cameras at all restaurants and bars, as the security officials have been demanding, should go a long way towards addressing the concern of suspected criminals frequenting these establishments. Security officials are also concerned that long nights will promote prostitution, criminal activities and drug abuse. To be fair, there is little evidence either in support of or against these claims.
The police, to its credit, has expressed its commitment to provide security around the clock if right environment can be created for the operation of nightlife establishments. We believe there has to be a nice balance between the city’s need to maintain a vibrant nightlife and its growing security concerns. It is up to nightlife entrepreneurs and security agencies to sit together and hammer out the right formula to better regulate Kathmandu’s nightlife. Neither should late operation of nightlife establishments compromise the security of the Valley, nor should there be harsh restrictions on nightlife in a vibrant city like Kathmandu. But there are some genuine problems with nightlife establishments. Use of minors as dancers and waiters are rampant. Many places are covertly promoting prostitution, even though this practice is not confined to night hours. There is also the danger that those already slogging away on minimum wages and very little benefits might be further exploited if they have to work even longer. We hope in the current deliberations between security bodies and nightlife entrepreneurs will be able to address these genuine concerns and Kathmandu can have nightlife befitting a colorful metro.