The event calendars of Delhi's cafes seem to be expanding faster than their menus. Going beyond live music performances, the pubs in the city now organise such diverse as events as quiz competitions, poetry slams, magic shows, stand-up comedy acts, film screenings, book readings, etc. The idea is to make cafes an alternative cultural space.
"People are getting bored of live music performances at pubs. We organise a host of events to provide a whole new kind of café experience to our guests. Our events attract a large and diversified audience. While our poetry slams are popular with senior citizens, pub quizzes are popular with expats and youngsters," said Pankaj Khandelwal, manager, Café Oz, at Khan Market whose walls are adorned with framed posters of the many events it organises. In fact, the café has a dedicated floor for events.
"The pub quizzes are pretty popular abroad. People are always looking for knowledge and are open to learning anywhere, anytime. Quizzes also provide people in pubs an extended social interaction. What makes quizzing popular at pubs is the fact that we mix quizzing with fun," said Deshan Tucker, a quiz master who organises quizzes at various pubs in the city.
The TLR Café in Hauz Khas Village has carved a niche for itself with its innovative events programming. The café aspires to be the city's cultural and intellectual hub, where one can enjoy quizzes, underground music, and book readings. Besides, the cafe also organises a lot of adhoc events.
"Ours is not a regular pub clientele; it is a place where people come for new sounds and new ideas in an intellectually-stimulating but homely environment," said Harsh Chaturvedi, events and marketing manager, TLR Café.
Café Mocha organises many community based events such as ‘board-games nights'; ‘Delhi-jelly', a platform for young entrepreneurs to come and share their ideas. Besides, the café also holds art exhibitions, book readings, and comic workshops at its various outlets.
On Saturday the café organised a comic lovers' meet at its DLF Saket outlet, which also saw the launch of the Werehouse, a first of its kind black and white comic in India.
"Coffee shops have always been culture-builders; for us socialising means not just connecting with like minded people but building cultural ties. That's what people do at our cafes, which are now unconventional spaces for art and cultural events," said Sweta Ojha, marketing coordinating, Café Mocha.
Rajat Kukereja of Bombay Elektrik Projekt, an organisation which organises poetry slams and stand-up comedy acts at Delhi restaurants, believes that cafes make art, poetry, and stand-up comedy accessible to a whole new kind of audience, who may not like to visit Mandi House or India Habitat Centre for such events. "Our events at cafes are aimed at creating tribes of like-minded people. The audiences at pubs are pretty receptive," he said.
His view is echoed by Rajneesh Kapoor, a stand-up comedian, who has performed at various restaurants across the city.
"It is not easy for upcoming artists to get an opportunity to perform at Kamani Auditorium. Pubs and cafes provide them a good platform to test and hone their skills. But it is more difficult to perform in a pub as you have to grab attention of people who are otherwise busy drinking, eating and talking," said Kapoor.
He believes that his stand-up act also helps restaurants help attract more customers. "Most restaurants have already experimented with food and ambience. Now they need something new; and these events help them attract new customers," said Kapoor, who is now being solicited by an increasing number of cafes and restaurants in the city.
Pankaj Khandelwal concurs, "Footfalls are up by 50% on the day we have events."
Well, a lot is indeed happening over coffee in the Capital!