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The Great Indian Pubbing Spirits

One can see how big the plate of gastronomy has become once the concept of gastro-bars and gastro-pubs entered the scene

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


One of the best things about traveling is being able to check out the different types of nightlife that other countries have. One might not associate India with partying but be sure that India's nightlife is distinct and growing.

Indians are known to enjoy amazing cultural diversity, from lifestyle to language since a young age. And as adaptable, highly accommodating individuals, we have never learnt to say 'No'!

Tucked away, you'll find everything from intimate bars and pubs, to multi-level nightclubs. Those interested in something more traditional will find no shortage of cultural performances either. One needs to know where to look.

The beer market in India is an estimated 14 per cent (or Rs 14,000 crore) of the Rs.1 lakh crore liquor market but the beer consumption in bars and restaurants is just 10 per cent. The rest happens in cars or on the street, near liquor stores. Drinking at home is still a taboo but this is changing fast as social drinking is becoming more acceptable with the 'pub culture'.

No matter what your choice of drink is, sipping it at a uniquely uber-cool place has the power to instantly pep-up your happiness quotient. Pubs and bars in India have revamped themselves to some kickass places. Well, the trend is fast-changing from bars, lounges, casual-diners and clubs to pubs and microbreweries.

While it is good news to some, others want to prohibit it all like Bihar and Kerela.

Anyone would agree, that todays' youth is several steps ahead. They work to balance the core Indianess and Western tastes all the time and they succeed beautifully. With their open-mindedness, experimenting attitude, they wish to try it all, including food, media, dress-styles and styles of celebration!

Pubs are now no more dark-dingy places with loud music, where consuming liquor seems mandatory. The Indian pubs also keep food on the menu to appeal to a wider audience. Late night gatherings or partying/ reunions are all held at pubs these days.

Some people might complain that Indian pubs don't check the age of their visitors and serve liquor to teens below 18. Others might see as a factor spoiling the generation. Let's see- altercations can spring up in pubs, youngsters visiting pubs has resulted in increased rates of accidents due to drunken driving, almost, 40% of road accidents are alcohol-related. The second concern is regarding people who take to drugs, it is increasing drastically.

Curfews and Legal Drinking Age
While the age for the legal consumption of alcohol varies across the different states in India, in Delhi, it remains at 25 years, despite ongoing discussions about lowering it. In Mumbai, it's 25 for spirits, 21 for beer, and no set age for wine. India's party state of Goa has the lowest legal drinking age of 18 years, along with Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. Elsewhere it's generally 21 years. However, venues aren't usually strict about enforcing these limits. Gujarat is known as a "dry state", where alcohol is illegal without a permit.

In most cities in India, nightlife is early to start and early to end because of the curfews in place. While Mumbai may have the biggest selection of party places, 1.30 a.m. they begin to shut for the night. With exceptions in luxury hotels, the scene is similar in Delhi and Kolkata (a 2 a.m. curfew has been introduced there). Worse for Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad which have 11-11.30 p.m. curfews. It's surprising that hotspots in Goa are forced to sleep by 10 p.m. due to noise restrictions. Many venues have compromised with the solution to the curfews is to open during the day, or early evening.

Pubbing & Nightlife is becoming India's pulse

One can say that the ideas of partying have become globalized and people don't avoid pubs that much in India. A professional meeting or casual-dating, a lot can happen over a mug of beer. It is fairly cool to hang out with your single folks or family at a nearby pub. The liking is definitely growing as unlike a restaurant, pubs are more liberal places where people mind their own business. If a boy and girl drink, dance and enjoy music together, it is not going to affect anybody's life.

India is going global like several other countries and is embracing the vibrancy of the nightlife, especially, metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Bangalore are known for their modern lifestyle. Counting all together, India has more than 800 liquor serving bars and pubs. Its' appeal is going abroad to an international audience as well.

As drinking traditionally isn't part of India's social culture, the bars all over the country tend to be divided into two categories -- cheap, seedy local bars frequented by India's male population, and classier venues catering to the progressive middle and upper class crowd. The latter can only be found in major cities.

An interesting term came to be used in India, which is "resto-pub" or "resto-bar", where one can dine-drink and dance later. An elegant example of a resto-bar is Bonobo located in Mumbai's Bandra suburb.

Just as Berlin, Paris, Las Vegas developed themselves as ultra-modern centers, attracting night-life tourism; India too can promote tourism for pubbing. However, the government or moral policing groups do not want to promote alcoholism as Indian culture, ignoring the generations' likes will limit the economic proliferation of this industry.

Wednesday is the new Saturday
Men and women under 40, working with MNC'S blended well with the concept of pub culture. A lot of pub owners report that the maximum sales are in the mid-week presumably on Wednesdays. Contrary to the popular notion that weekend brings maximum crowd. People come here to unwind and discuss meeting over food and beer. Informal settings of a lounge are preferred over the setting of a formal restaurant or mall.

If the pub tourism finds a definite space to fit-in and is accepted as it, it perhaps won't give rise to illegal businesses to flourish. At Hauz Khas village for instance or at the Gurgaon Cyber city-hub, cars move bumper to bumper. If it is by chance a ladies-night, suave girls flock in to sip in free cocktails and guys accompany them even though neither their entry nor their drinks are free (tickets hover around Rs 1500 per person). It doesn't matter if the next day is working or not- everyone is in such high spirits.

F&B entrepreneurs running these pubs report high profit margins of close to 40 per cent on an average, in comparison to high-end restaurants located in a posh neighborhood which only generate 20 per cent profits. One can see how big the plate of gastronomy has become once the concept of gastro-bars and gastro-pubs entered the scene.

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