Drunken driving may be illegal but that hasn’t stopped Delhiites from turning their car into a bar on wheels. With the heat soaring and price of liquor in pubs skyrocketing, the car-o-bar of modifying vehicles with mini bars is brisk in Karol Bagh market — the city’s biggest car accessories hub.
Shopkeepers in the area claim to receive at least two orders each day, mainly from young and first-time owners. From mini-fridges in the boot and armrest that are internally wired to keep the liquor chilled to air-cooled beer cup holders, the car can be revamped in less than an hour. “And don’t worry about the wiring, it will be concealed,” says a shopkeeper.
While a beer cup holder costs between Rs 350 and Rs 1000, arm-rest refrigerators can be fitted for Rs 6,000-8,000. And for those with deep pockets, a 24-litre fridge, which can easily accommodate 15 beer bottles, can be fitted to the boot for around Rs 10,000.
“All you have to do is connect the plug to the mobile charging or lighter socket. It uses less than 12 volts battery,” says a mechanic before rushing off to tend to a customer.
“Beer remains chilled for at least 4-5 hours. Cans are better as they are easy to open, occupy less space and remain chilled longer than bottles,” says another.
And what bar is complete without neon lights. “We will design the lighting in such a way that your car looks like a real bar. You can serve alcohol from the boot like a real bartender. You can also light up the car ceiling,” says a shopkeeper.
“It will all be concealed so it is expensive,” he adds. Though a five-metre neon light costs only Rs 500, the labour charge ranges from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000.
Last year, over 29,500 people were prosecuted for drunken driving in Delhi. Shopkeepers, however, don’t fear a ban. “Look at the packaged covers of these refrigerators. It has images of soft drinks and water bottles. Who would have thought it will be used to make a car bar? We also get customers who get these fitted to stock food and water for long trips,” says a mechanic.
According to former Delhi traffic police chief Maxwell Periera, the fad is another import from the West. “When I went to the US, I saw limousines with well-designed bars. But there was a partition between the driver and the passengers. As Indians, we are good at imitating the West. As long as the driver does not drink liquor, I see nothing wrong here,” he says. Periera, however, adds: “The laws have to be followed. Cars with bars should not be driven to places where alcohol is prohibited.”
For some, it is a worrying trend which could lead to more accidents on city roads. “Any modification that can hamper the safety of others should be treated a crime… Drunken driving is a crime and should be treated likewise irrespective of whether it is behind the wheels of a motorbike or a luxury car,” says sociologist Shiv Viswanathan.