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When and why did the Mumbai pub get so loud?

Across pubs, if there’s one thing that guarantees footfalls, it’s blaring music. When did Mumbai get so loud? And is there hope if you’re not a pub-hopping millennial?

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Nov 18, 2016 13:28 IST
Shikha Kumar
Khar Social
Khar Social

Across pubs, if there’s one thing that guarantees footfalls, it’s blaring music. When did Mumbai get so loud? And is there hope if you’re not a pub-hopping millennial?

Here’s a fun experiment. The next time you want to meet a friend over a drink, or are out on a date, visit one of the popular pubs in Bandra or Lower Parel on a Friday night, and attempt to have a conversation. If you successfully manage to dissect the latest episode of Westworld, or discover the story behind your date’s nickname, let us in on this secret place.

If not, you know what to blame: the blaring music. While the city sees a new watering hole almost every other week, catching up over drinks has become a bit of a struggle: if there isn’t a DJ, there’s loud, commercial music booming from the speakers.

When the first Social opened in Colaba in 2014, it brought something new to Mumbai’s nightlife scene. Co-working space by day, it transformed into a buzzing gastro-pub at dusk. Two years and seven outlets in the city later, the model seems to have worked, with restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani set to open another one in Versova next month.

Monkey Bar, Bandra (HT File Photo)

When a colleague and I visit their Khar outlet on a weekend, the place is packed to capacity — the floor thumps with the latest monosyllabic Rihanna track, and we struggle to speak, seated across each other on the community table.

“It’s a café for millennials,” says Amlani, when I ask him why he has given in to the loud music template. “They’re different from Gen X. They’re more value-oriented, laid-back, don’t like to dress up too much, but still want to party. And they don’t like sedate places… a buzzing, high-energy ambience is what they want,” he explains.

Other franchise pubs across the city, like TAP, Hoppipola, Harry’s, British Brewing Company, and The Irish House seem to follow a similar template: that loud music equals more footfalls.

Changing times, changing tastes

The trend of booming music is actually reflective of the transition that Mumbai’s nightlife has undergone over the last decade. The ’90s were about nightclubs like Fire ‘N’ Ice (Lower Parel) and Razzberry Rhinoceros and J49 (Juhu). They played a mix of disco, salsa, jazz, latino, and even had live acts. Restaurateur Rishad Nathani, who recently launched The Clearing House in Fort, recalls nights spent partying at now-shuttered places like 1900s (inside the Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba), RG’s (at Hotel Natraj, which is now Intercontinental, Marine Drive), and Cellar (at The Oberoi, Nariman Point). “The parties would be on till 3 am, after which we’d troop into the coffee shops in five-star hotels,” he says.

In fact, the recently opened Playboy Club in Worli is a major throwback to that decade, with its loud music, laser beam interiors and a sizeable dance floor. This element makes it one of the last few places in the city — others include Rude Lounge and TAP — for people looking to go dancing.

Playboy Club, Worli (Photo courtesy: Playboy Club)

READ MORE: First look: Inside Mumbai’s first Playboy Club

The 2000s brought in a relaxed lounge scene, with more ambient, mellow music. Popular haunts included Zenzi and Buddha Bar (Bandra). Interestingly, these places catered to the same crowd that hit the clubs a few years ago. “They were now grown up, many married with kids, and didn’t want to visit clubs anymore,” says Amlani. The decade also saw electronica gaining popularity.

The current café-bar and gastro pub concept came into existence after the clampdown on the nightlife scene in 2012. “With the 1.30am deadline, profits started dwindling. People would only get out to party after 11pm. And only five-stars had the extension,” says Mihir Desai, co-owner, Corum Hospitality, which runs the Bar Stock Exchange (BSE) chain of pubs. Desai would know. He’s moved with the times: he ran the popular club Aziano from 2005 to 2009, and, later, The Big Bang Bar & Café, where a BSE outlet now stands.

Zenzi (HT File Photo)

Here to stay?

The millennials, who took over from the clubbers of the ’90s, have more disposable income and go out more frequently. The café-bar draws in people on weeknights and on Fridays, while the clubs would do business only for eight days a month.

Catering to their tastes, these places ditched Bollywood for EDM, house or commercial western tracks, with alcohol on the side. While most places unmistakably crank up the volume come Friday night, some do it on weekdays too. “After a long day, they want to crib about their work, their bosses, and basically, let loose. Music is a catalyst,” adds Desai.

Khar Social

The demarcated dance-floor may have died, but the urge to dance hasn’t. So, heads bob at the table, or feet move around them. And the music remains loud so that they do. Having a good time equals more hours spent. More hours spent equals more drinks ordered.

If you think going out in other cities would make for a quieter experience, it isn’t always so. Bangalore-based Manu Chandra, the chef/partner at Monkey Bar and Fatty Bao, calls it a generational thing: “I’ve personally seen people walk out of less loud places, mumbling that the place wasn’t ‘buzzing at all’. A lot of people equate buzz with loudness.”

With nightclubs on a steady decline even in the West, it’s hard to tell whether the loud pub is here to stay. Amlani predicts the next big trend could just be mixologist-led bars. “Where there’s room for cocktails and conversation,” he says. Till then, keep yelling across the table.

Looking for some relative quiet? Some places that dial it down.

The Clearing House: The newest entrant in SoBo’s fine dining space, this one has good food, better cocktails and subdued music.

Where: Ballard Estate, Fort

Call: 6223 2266

The Clearing House

Doolally: If you’re looking to unwind with some good craft beer and soft music, pick the outdoor section of this brewhouse. Besides, they’re pet friendly and have a stash of popular board games.

Where: Near Fun Republic Mall, Andheri (West)

Call: 99671 02143

Doolally

The House: Nestled inside a restored bungalow, this casual dining place is never too crowded, has a terrace area with a gorgeous sea view and mellow music.

Where: Versova, Andheri (West)

Call: 6526 3888

The House

Woodside Inn: No blaring house or EDM. Head to this place for a warm ambience, craft beers on tap and good ol’ (but not too loud) classic rock music.

Where: Opp. Regal Cinema, Colaba

Call: 2287 5752

Woodside Inn (HT File Photo)

The Tasting Room: An ideal place wine-and-dine place to take your date to, this one’s heavy on the pocket, but the cozy ambience provides some much-needed respite.

Where: Raghuvanshi Mill Compound, Lower Parel

Call: 6528 5284