Permit Room: the history behind our new Brighton spot

Beaming through a tucked away corner of Brighton’s busy lanes, Permit Room is open and ready to welcome one and all. Not to be confused with the buzzy bars in our Dishoom cafés, this Permit Room is an outpost all of its own. An all-day bar-café, ready to welcome you from a hearty breakfast until our weekly guest DJs spin their last record of the night. 

There is much to tell you about the delectations and dancing to be enjoyed there but first, allow us to share the rich history that inspired this new spot. Our story begins in 1949, two years after India gained Independence and the year the Bombay Prohibition Act was passed, banning all liquor in the city – initially even cough syrup. But Bombayites, ever the inventive and tenacious people that they are, found ways to enjoy a tipple or two. 

Bootlegging bubbled in the backstreets and in the suburbs, enterprising Aunties secretly served drinks from their front rooms, often only a curtain as division from the rest of the house. Soon, these Aunty Bars became a fixture of the city, a boiled egg vendor stationed nearby as a sign for those in the know. Since raids were rife, drinking sessions were short – ten minutes was plenty to guzzle some moonshine or feni liquor. 

By the 1970s the law was loosened up, and those wishing to partake of liquor for “the preservation or maintenance of health” were required to obtain a permit. Thus, permit rooms were born. At these small drinking spots tucked down side streets, men gathered around Formica tables on plastic chairs and steel benches, chatting over quarters of hard liquor, and sharing chakli and peanut masala. 

Today, permit rooms still exist. And while you may not be asked to present a permit, if you find yourself in Bombay, we’d recommend joining the multifarious clientele at Gokul around the familiar Formica tables; ambling to Kit Kat after hours; or squeezing in next to the towers of beer crates at Café Oval.

But if you cannot make it to Bombay, do visit us in Brighton where we pay tribute to the permit rooms of Bombay. The furniture may be sturdier and the drinks more sophisticated, but the atmosphere will surely transport you back to 1970s Bombay. There’s plentiful snacks to enjoy while you choose between cocktails (and teetotal ones), natural and organic wines, rotating guest beers, lassis and softs. Then, move on to moreish savouries before feasting into the evening on hearty curries and indulgent specials like Jackfruit Berry Pulao. Finish with a flourish, and a Sweet Thing

Stay until late – on Thursdays, our guest DJs will guide your tapping toes through funk, punk, hip-hop and disco. If you require sustenance the morning after, return for Naan Rolls stuffed with bacon. 

Permit Room is mostly for walk-ins, but a few tables are held back for reservations. Kindly click here and scroll down to book yours.  

The team at Permit Room are very much looking forward to welcoming you in. 

Explore Permit Room
Read the café stories

Suggested Reading

See the journal

Dishoom Loves. Issue XIII.

With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.

A Little Magic

“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.

Dishoom Loves. Issue XII.

January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.

Goodbye 2023. Hello 2024.

I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.