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Pubs under security after Pune blast

entertainment Updated: Feb 18, 2010 16:39 IST
Rochelle Pinto

Going pub hopping is going to get more complicated than you’re used to. After the recent Pune blasts, which revealed restaurants and pubs to be soft targets, owners have decided to beef up security measures at the city’s most popular restaurants and bars. Places that are popular with foreign tourists are especially on their guard. Most of them had adopted safety measures like metal detectors at entry points and bag checks after the 26/11 attacks, but recently they’ve decided to intensify the checking systems.

Bag alert
“We have to be careful because people get offended if we go through their bags,” asserts Vardhaman Choksi of the newly opened Escobar, Bandra. “I’m skeptical about how to do it, but we have to make it compulsory.”

The bar, which hopes to attract the large expat community currently living in Mumbai, plans to amp up the strict gate control. “We don’t allow people with large bags inside. They will be asked to leave their bags in the car, and soon, we will also offer them a locker facility,” he says.

Dharmesh Karmokar of Aurus, Juhu, agrees that bags are the biggest security hazard. “Luckily, most patrons who visit Aurus come in their own vehicles. So we politely ask them to leave their bags behind in their cars,” he reveals. “If they are carrying valuables and insist on keeping the bag with them, we check it thoroughly before allowing them inside.”

Even the staff at Juhu’s Novotel, which houses the popular bar, Gadda La Vida, undergo a bag check before they enter the premises. Apart from screening patrons’ bags, they have been asked to keep a vigilant eye for isolated items, and immediately alert the hotel security if they get suspicious.

At the Hard Rock Café, Lower Parel, the housekeeping staff checks the washrooms every 15 minutes. Any abandoned items, especially bags, have to be reported to the security.

Metal detectors and professional security guards are being called in en masse for restaurants and pubs. Hoshang Yezgardi of the Colaba pub, Cafe Mondegar, says, “We don’t want to scare our foreign tourists but we are buying metal detectors for the entrance of the pub. We will also have armed guards to guard the pub.”

The Novotel has installed special 360-degree security cameras and the Blue Frog, Lower Parel, is also planning to streamline its security. “We already have metal detectors and physically check male patrons at the entry,” explains co-owner Dhruv Ghanekar. “Our staff is also trained to guide people to
emergency exits in a crisis.”

Acting up
Party-hoppers who love to get drunk and act boisterous might want to reconsider their habits. ‘Suspicious behaviour’ is now a red flag for restaurant and bar owners. “We have trained the staff at Escobar to mingle with the crowd, looking for patrons who do drugs or anything illegal. Even if they’re just smoking a joint, they will be asked to leave,” reiterates Choksi.

According to the Novotel staff, people walking around the hotel aimlessly, classify as suspicious. “People come to hotels either to meet someone, visit the restaurant or use the pool. If staffers find

someone walking around randomly, they’ve been instructed to find out what the person is doing there,” says a member of the management.
Ghanekar, however, warns that bars and pubs need to be very subtle when profiling patrons. “Profiling is a sensitive issue. At Blue Frog, we have a lot of singles because we don’t restrict entry to couples only.” Even the Gadda La Vida staff has been instructed to ask guests only relevant questions to avoid panic.

But the Pune attacks may have altered the ‘customer is king’ rule for now. At Aurus, arguing with the staff or refusing to co-operate with bag checks could get you kicked out. Karmokar assures, “We’re not going to put our patrons at risk for the sake of a difficult few. All our
managers are empowered to take action against anyone who refuses to behave.”