Chennai opened itself to yet another New Year’s Day with glittering skies, loud music, lots of cheers, the midnight mass and late night special temple poojas. While some business houses and restaurants cribbed about heavy patrolling bringing down the crowds on New Year night, Wednesday saw jam-packed malls, cinemas and restaurants.
“This time around we saw a decline of around 30 per cent in our sales as compared to last year on the same night. Since patrolling was more and there was more stress on crowd management, many of the malls where we have our restaurants had asked us to shut down early. But this morning and noon, the crowd was as good as last year,” says N Kumaravel, AGM of Habebe Foods and Beverages, which runs several chains of restaurant in the city, including Arabian Hut, Mughal Express and Fruit Punch.
“For us most of the New Year crowd comes on night of December 31. Since we had to close it early, it has affected our New Year sales,” informs a Pizza Hut employee at Express Avenue Mall. Most restaurants in the city meanwhile had specialised New Year lunch, brunch and dinner arranged with many adds-on, including live music, food fests, special buffets and ‘unlimited’ offers.
Besides eateries, gift shops like Archies, which closed by about 9.45 pm on Tuesday, saw lesser sales this time than the year before. “The crowd goes up with the approaching of the New Year night. Usually we close by 9.30 pm but because of the crowd we extended it till 9.45 pm. But still the sales were a little less than last year, about 12 per cent down. Even Christmas this year saw more sales than the New Year,” says N Imtiaz, store manager of Archies store in Royapettah.
According to him, apart from the usual gift articles of greeting cards and chocolates, one item that has come high up in the list of New Year gifts is ‘Quotation books’. “Quotation books saw a huge demand this year. Along with diaries, they are now among the top gifts,” he says.
However, cinema houses had no footfall issues. They saw packed audiences through the day. Many of the top cinema halls saw full bookings. Apart from the blazing hits like Dhoom 3, children’s movies, including Frozen and Walking With the Dinosaurs saw families thronging in.
Despite all the posters and restaurants ads, many in the city still found themselves enjoying their New Year day at beaches and terraces at home. Even as crackers hit the sky at midnight, terraces became celebration zones with family get-togethers, home-made buffets, discos and neighbours greeting each other across each other’s terraces.
The beach was no exception. In spite of the restriction on the vehicles, many found it impossible to even enter into the beach thanks to the rush. “We just stayed back on the road because the beach was so crowded. We ended up cutting our New Year cake from there,” says Pawan Kumar, who works at a pharma firm in Purusawalkkam.
Being a festival that is celebrated world over, the New Year day saw a large numbers of expats in the city too coming out to shop and make the best out of their host city. Shunsuke Yoshioka, who hails from Osaka in Japan and works in Chennai, was out shopping with his friends on Wednesday.
Even though the expat group tried to make the best of the city, they couldn’t help miss home. “We miss all the rituals and prayers in the temple back in Osaka, the bamboo decorations on the streets. There is much more celebration there during New Year,” he says.