Bribes and beer: Top Delhi nightspot in legal strife

Bribes and beer: Top Delhi nightspot in legal strife
A man stands next to the gate of a closed restaurant at Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, September 23, 2013. A court order that closed dozens of restaurants has thrown a spotlight on the rise of a zone that is a microcosm of India's urban development

NEW DELHI, Sept 27, 2013 - Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi is to the Indian capital what Brooklyn is to New York City or Shoreditch is to London - a bustling area of art galleries, bars, shops and 20-something hipsters. But a court order last week that closed dozens of popular restaurants has thrown a spotlight on the rapid rise of a zone that is a microcosm of India's anarchic, unsafe and corruption-riddled urban development.

The restaurants were closed for five days by the National Green Tribunal, a government environment court, which found that 34 restaurants had failed to obtain emissions permits or build waste water treatment facilities. "This problem had been festering for the past couple of months, but nobody took it seriously and now it has backfired," said Virat Chhabra, marketing manager of multi-cuisine restaurant Mia Bella.

"When push came to shove, the authorities forced us to shut down," said Chhabra, adding that the restaurant faced a loss of nearly 350,000 rupees ($5,600) over the weekend, when it usually swarms with middle-class professionals and expats.

The tribunal allowed Mia Bella along with 25 of the 34 shuttered eateries to re-open on Wednesday, provided they addressed the pollution concerns. Hauz Khas Village houses about 75 art galleries, designer boutiques, bistros and bars, many competing for views atop colourful concrete buildings that overlook the ruins of a nearby 13th-century tomb built next to a lake.

The "Village" has expanded vertically at break-neck speed, with building owners adding floors for new bars and restaurants. In the narrow alleys at ground level, power cables dangle overhead while giant back-up generators hum in the background.

"This country works on money. If you have the cash or know the right guys, then your work is sorted. If not, then you toil for months, even years," the owner of one of the restaurants told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

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