CHENNAI: K Srikanth moved to Chennai from Bengaluru seven years back to work with an IT firm. He was disappointed when he realised that his options to ‘hang out’ were limited to a few bars — either the plush pubs in five-star hotels, or the poorly ventilated, seedy ones that reek of alcohol, sweat and smoke.
“I was extremely unhappy because I felt that I barely had any options to pick from,” he says. “I was living alone in Chennai and after a tough week, sometimes all you want to do is go to a place which plays some nice music, offers good food and chilled beer! So, I used to call people home because it was a better environment to have a party, and it worked out cheaper than going to an incredibly expensive bar.”Known for its ancient temples, Margazhi mania, and coffee culture, Chennai is now turning vibrant after the sun goes down. Touted as a ‘sleepy’ city for years, Chennai has now woken up to an evolving nightlife and party scene. CE spoke to various stakeholders to find out what has led to this quiet transition.
“This was an explosion waiting to happen,” says the manager of a popular resto-bar in the city. “Chennai had been closed to nightlife for far too long. People visit other cities and experience the nightlife there and want the same kind of scene in their own city where there are numerous options to choose from when they’re looking to grab a drink. Even now with so many new cafes and pubs, there are large pockets where there is demand and barely any supply. So, it is a great time to be in business in Chennai because there is a tremendous scope.”
Space for talent
The surge in the number of pubs has come as a boon for performing artistes who find it easier to bag a gig. Model-turned-singer Aishvarrya Suresh talks about how the city has immense talent and they are now being given many platforms to showcase their work.
“I don’t think Chennai is conservative. It is pretty hip now,” she says. “We have talented artistes who perform all over the country. In the past, we did not have enough avenues to promote our work. This is an exciting time for us as performers. The year 2018 saw a lot of new bars and pubs opening, and I think 2019 is only going to be better. These spaces help introduce people to our work as well. The city has a lot of music lovers who earlier had to go elsewhere to watch their favourite artistes perform, but now people are beginning to perform here. So, this will catch on.”
Silent nights, no more
It is not just music, but also open mic nights, comedy gigs, karaoke nights and board game nights that are becoming a huge draw for people to visit these clubs and pubs that are as much a place to ‘chill’ as they are a place to socialise.
“We expect such events to catch on but at a slower pace than other cities,” says a manager of another popular bar in the heart of the city. “Chennai is a dichotomous city which makes it both a challenging and extremely rewarding market. People here drink at night and wake up to filter coffee and suprabhatam. That’s also the beauty of the city — the balance between traditional and modern.”
Few owners also say that it was expensive to get a liquor license and what came with it was a regular payout to the police and other government bodies. They say the expense incurred to set up, manage and keep a liquor establishment going is the other reason we don’t see many standalone pubs in the city. But come what may, they say that people like Srikanth who move from other cities will not have the same complaints any longer.