Epicentre of city’s nightlife shifts mid-town | india | Hindustan Times
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Epicentre of city’s nightlife shifts mid-town

Former mill lands are stealing the spotlight away from old haunts Bandra and Juhu.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2009 18:31 IST
Naomi Canton

It’s official. The most happening place to party is now mid-town. With Blue Frog turning two and Tote on the Turf at Mahalaxmi Racecourse drawing crowds, every bar and club looking to open up in Mumbai is eyeing the city’s former mill lands — Worli, Lower Parel, and Mahalaxmi.

Atria Mall, Worli will host two nightclubs early next year, one being Hype, owned by celebrity DJ Aqeel.
Delhi’s F Bar and Lounge, owned by Fashion TV India, plans to open mid-town next year. Blue Frog’s success has prompted it to expand, and India’s first standalone comedy club, The Comedy Store, and first Manchester United-branded Café Bar, are both due to open inside the Palladium next year.

Indigo Deli and TGI Friday’s are planning branches inside the luxury mall, while an Armani café and Rohit Bal’s Veda will set up shop.

Just two years ago, Worli’s Atria Mall had a 30 per cent vacancy. Now owner Chetan Shah, says, “The Worli-Bandra Sealink has increased footfall by 25 per cent. People are flooding in from the suburbs and businesses are queuing up to rent space.”

Ketan Kadam, who is reopening Magic in Worli as an upscale restaurant soon, says: “After 7pm, nothing’s open except the outlets in these areas, so there are no parking hassles.”

Gayatri Ruia, director of business development of the Palladium, says: “This is where people from both sides of the city can meet. It’s a logical way for this city to progress. Mid-town is the epicentre of Mumbai now.”

‘Gallops is not closing down’
Says Mohanbir Singh, lawyer for Gallops, the BJR-owned venue on Mahalaxmi Racecourse. “Far from it. Never,” he insists, giving relief to loyal patrons.

He adds, “We have not defaulted on any payments and nor are we closing down. We paid our annual rent in July and the cheque was returned.”

The dispute — the BMC claims the sub-lease the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) had entered into with Gallops is illegal since the RWITC leases the racecourse from the BMC. The BMC also claims some constructions on the premises are illegal. The RWITC recently terminated its agreement.

But Singh dismisses the termination as illegal. There are currently four cases against the RWITC, one asking the court to declare that Gallops are lawful sub-tenants. Singh adds that all the ‘illegal’ constructions, including the steps from the kitchen to the lawn and the lawn platform, were there before the BJR group rented the property in 1986.

Blue Frog turns two!

Blue Frog, Lower Parel’s live music performance club, turns two today.

The club has planned a month of special programming, celebrating with artistes such as Zucco 103 Soundsytem, No Jazz and Jalabee Cartel.

Composer-musicians Ashutosh Pathak and Dhruv Ghanekar, film director Mahesh Mathai, film producer Srila Chatterjee and fund manager Simran Mulchandani founded the club on December 12, 2007 inside the former Zeba warehouse in the Mathuradas Mills Compound in Lower Parel.

Then, there was only the Hard Rock Café, Shiro and a few small joints in Phoenix Mills. Property prices in Lower Parel were cheap but have now soared.

“Places in Juhu or Andheri, can be guaranteed local patrons. This place was not close to thriving residential areas. Luckily, it worked, as we are not seen as a South Mumbai venue by people in the ’burbs. The sealink has also helped,” Mathai says.

The Frog now hosts live music three days a week and has DJs on Friday and Saturday nights. It regularly brings in international artists, focusing on original live and electronic music. Recently, it was named one of the world’s 10 greatest live music venues by the British Independent newspaper.

The venue draws crowds of 300 to 500 on weekends and 120 to 200 on week nights.

Before 9pm, entry is free and the Frog encourages music lovers who can’t afford the entrance charge to come at that time. “Students can come here before 9pm, watch a band and they don’t even have to buy a beer,” Mathai says.

Success formula
The secret of their success? “The programming and phenomenal design. People from all the
world come here and say ‘wow,’” he asserts.

Last week their second venture – the Grey Goose lounge, a member’s only lounge specialising in Grey Goose vodka launched. Plans are afoot to open up a Blue Frog in Delhi next year. “It won’t be a replica of Mumbai, but there will be a connect,” Mathai says.

They are also planning expansion overseas. “People say this is of an international standard. We want to ensure our offshore management is up to scratch first,” he reveals.

Were you there?

Blue Frog partner Mahesh Mathai lists their most memorable gigs to date

John McLaughlin: I will never forget this gig. He played here as part of his album launch and that album went on to win a Grammy.

Zakir Hussain with Bela Fleck: This performance was completely impromptu. Someone suggested he play at this new music club. He got in touch with us and though we’re normally closed on Mondays, we decided to stay open. There was just an SMS campaign, no adverts, and it was an impromptu concert. It was packed, people were queuing outside.

Taufiq Qureshi: He has played here several times, along with his band Mumbai Stamp that plays on trash materials. He always creates a special atmosphere.

DJ Markus Schulz: He is currently ranked No 8 in the world.

DJ Sanjay Dutta: His music spans generations. His last gig had young kids going crazy among an older audience.
Bauchklang. This Austrian beat-boxing group has played here often, blowing the audience away each time.

Tote was six years in the planning

When Malini and Rahul Akerkar decided to open Tote on the Turf, mid-town was not buzzing. But the restaurant, housed in the heritage Tote Building, is now the hottest place to be.

Setting trends is not new for the couple, who opened Indigo in Colaba 10 years ago, when it was “not gentrified and full of Eastern European prostitutes and junkies.” Apart from Café Leopold and Café Mondegar, the only other spot was the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

Tote’s delayed opening was caused by funding and permission issues. Now it is packed on all days of the week. Malini Akerkar adds, “Anything new is always ‘in’. Apart from the food and ambience, the architecture impresses people. I don’t know of anything like it in India.”