Entertainment centres reluctant to relocate to urban core

Owners of the entertainment centre in Olakha in Thimphu are reluctant to relocate their business to the urban core.

According to Thimphu Thromde’s notification issued in January, the entertainment centres should relocate to the urban core by December. Chang Lam, Phenday Lam and Norzin Lam constitute the city’s urban core.

There are four entertainment centers (a discotheque and three karaoke hubs) in Olakha. 

The decision to relocate the entertainment centres away from residential areas was reached at during the first Entertainment Licensing Committee (ELC) meeting held on October 26, 2018. 

Owners of entertainment centres said that they invested heavily in the business and would be inconvenient to relocate. 

Owner of Club Ghatro, Dawa Rinzin Tamang said: “It has not even been a year since I bought this place and I got a notification saying I have to relocate. I cannot afford to start all over again in a new place. Had I known about the Thromde’s decision earlier, I would not have bought this place.”

He also said that the basement of Shearee Square where his discotheque is located was meant to be a commercial area. “The initial plan was to allocate the basement for parking but Thromde asked the managing director of the complex to turn it into an entertainment area. So discotheque and karaoke were established here.”

He added that the design of the basement was suitable for entertainment centres because it was established for the very purpose. “The area is totally soundproofed and the club space does not have any pillars.”

Thomphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that the committee issued a notification to the owners in 2018 that was coldly received. The owners, however, say they received the official notification sometime in January 2019 only.

“They put up an appeal letter saying they do not want to relocate, but it is a rule approved by the Thromde Tshogde, so they have to abide by the rule or close their business by December,” thrompon said. 

The owners say that their request to arrange a meeting with the committee was denied. 

The thromde, however, approved the request of the owners of the entertainment centres for time extension. So, the thromde has extended relocation time until the end of December this year.

The owner of Tiger Lounge, Nobdul Wangchuk, said that he is not willing to relocate. “It has not been long since I bought this karaoke and I am not ready to relocate my business to an area where space is a problem. The cost is high, too. I submitted my karaoke licence for renewal but they won’t renew it unless I relocate my business to the urban core.”

The decision to relocate entertainment centres away from residential areas was taken according to Bhutan Infocomm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) rule governing the place of entertainment, 2018.

“Thromde’s job is to give them the location clearance and make sure the rules are followed,” a thromde official said.

The Thromde’s information and communication technology officer, Oma Pati Luitel, said that the thromde received complaints from residents living near the entertainment centres. 

“Now, we won’t renew this licences if they don’t relocate to commercial area which could ultimately lead to licence cancellation. We have already stopped issuing new entertainment licence in those areas,” Oma Pati Luitel said.

By relocating the entertainment centres to the urban core, the thromde’s plan is to centralise the business area of the city. 

“We are asking the people in the urban core to move out. Every city has a business area and for Thimphu, we have recognised the three lams where buildings will comprise of offices, shops, hotels and entertainment centres,” thrompon said.

Another complaint from the owners of the entertainment centre has been regarding the availability of space in the urban core. To this the Thromde has promised to facilitate them. 

“Wherever new constructions are happening in the city, basement should be allocated for discotheques, karaokes and drayangs. Since upper storeys of the buildings are usually shops that close by 10 and entertainment centres start operating by around 11, there won’t be disturbances,” the thrompon said.

Manager of Club Ghatro, Wangmo Moktan, said that she went to enquire about the availability of space for entertainment centres in urban core but found none. 

However, this rule only applies to discotheques, karaokes and drayangs. Other entertainment centre like movie halls, snooker rooms and video game parlors located in Olakha can continue operating. “The reason behind being, they don’t operate beyond 10 PM and the sale of alcohol is prohibited in those entertainment centres,” thromde official said. 

Esori Waglay

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