A recent notification from the Entertainment Licensing Committee (ELC) of the Thimphu Thromde started suspending Karaokes and clubs for not meeting technical standards. They were given time till 30th November 2022 to make changes and until then the business will be suspended.
There are about 75 karaoke in Thimphu and 90 percent of the karaoke received a notification to close down their business for three months. More than 500 staff working in various karaokes will be impacted according to the owners.
The karaoke owners met together and discussed what they can do. All the karaoke owners shared their grievances, and how they were already affected by the global pandemic, and more so now, with the new rules in place by ELC.
The karaoke owners are ready to make changes according to ELC’s required technical standards, but suspending the operation of their business until the rectification works are completed will affect all of them including their employees, they said.
The President of Bhutan Karaoke and Live Music Association, Gyem Dorji, said that without any prior notice, all the karaokes in Thimphu is to be closed, and the owners are unhappy with the notification.
He said as per the monitoring team from ELC, most karaoke establishments do not fulfill the required technical standards starting from small issues, such as not having fire extinguishers, and no ventilation, so on. These are small issues that can be done, but the karaoke owners are asked to close down their business for three months, which does not make sense, he added.
“Each karaoke has a minimum of 7 to 12 staff. Closing down of karaoke will not only affect the owner but also the staff working there,” Gyem Dorji said.
He further said that the owners have to pay the rent up to Nu 100,000 monthly, and apart from such expenses, during the lockdown, all the karaoke business owners took loans from CSI bank, and starting end of this month, they have to pay off the loan as well. Therefore, closing down the karaoke business for three months will hugely affect them.
So, these karaoke owners can only seek help from ELC, chaired by Thimphu Thrompon. He said, despite seeking an appointment with Thimphu Thrompon several times, the owners were denied.
Gyem Dorji said they expected the Thrompon to help, “We decided to walk in directly to the office of Thrompon with other karaoke owners, but Thrompon did not even care to listen to our grievances. We are really disappointed with the Thrompon’s reaction today.”
All the karaoke owners have been cooperating with the Royal Bhutan Police as in if in case, any crime is happening in the pub, they would always inform the police, he added.
“If we are forced to close down our karaoke for three months then ELC will have to compensate each karaoke a minimum of Nu 5 mn which the owners have invested to set up the karaoke. If ELC is willing to compensate then the owners will close down all the karaoke immediately,” The President said.
Recently, Zumthrel Karaoke was fined Nu 22,500 just for dancing while singing, and in addition, the particular karaoke was suspended from operating immediately.
Tenzin Wangchuk, the owner of Zumthrel Karaoke said that when the ELC team arrived to inspect, a few customers in their seats were singing, and one or two of their companions were dancing. As a result, the ELC team reasoned that customers should sit and sing while looking at the screen rather than stand and dance.
Another karaoke in Shearee Square was fined Nu 450,000 for not having a valid license.
Chuki Pem, who is a single mother with two kids, said she has been running Meto Pema Karaoke for the last four years and she is the sole bread earner at home. If she has to close down her karaoke then it will be difficult for her to look after her family.
“I don’t have any ways to pay off my loan, salary for staff, and rent. This is going to be a difficult situation for me,” said Chuki Pem.
The owner of Urban City Karaoke, Kinley Tshering, said the karaoke association committee members requested to meet the new ELC members several times but they could not do so. A few weeks ago, all the karaoke were inspected by the ELC monitoring team, and the found that many karaoke failed to meet the required technical standards. But all the karaoke owners obtained the license as per their requirements, and the owners also agreed to make changes as per their requirements, but now the karaoke owners are told they can only operate their business after meeting the required technical standards.
Similarly, karaoke owners said each time a new ELC team is formed, new criteria are being placed. In the beginning, BICMA had asked all the karaoke owners to have the stage, and now, the rule states, to remove the stage.
ELC notified the owners that after the completion of rectification works, they are requested to inform ELC for inspection.