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Last orders: please don’t tell

india Updated: Jun 21, 2013 17:56 IST
Serena Menon
secret bar


How do you get into this secret bar?” I asked, and I was told, “You call a number.” So I called. A voice answered, “Yes, who is this?” That isn’t the reaction one usually expects while calling a bar. But this isn’t just any bar, right? After a brief Q&A, I was given an idea of where this ‘secret pub’ was and the voice asked me to call when I actually wanted to visit. Unfortunately, I’m not in Delhi, and this place called PCO (Pass Code Only), is. Psst… the owners are looking for locations to set up a branch in Mumbai soon (says an anonymous source).

For those who might not be in the know, ‘secret bars’ are regular drinking holes, except they’re hidden in plain sight. Details about them get around through word-of-mouth. And only following their code can guarantee your entry.

I heard about PCO a few months ago. I remember discussing the chances of such a pub opening in Mumbai, since the concept exists in most major global cities. They’re common in New York — the one place this city is often compared to for its fast (crowded and expensive) life. And then, bang! Earlier this week, a city website revealed that a secret bar (called The Local) will soon open here.

In keeping with tradition, they’re going to attempt to keep it as exclusive as possible. Attempt, that is. The secret pub in Delhi, however, didn’t stay mysterious for long. Although they started out quietly, now the whole city knows about it and the whole city is there, says a friend, who happened to experience New York’s secret nightlife before she visited PCO.

When she first went there, she couldn’t help but notice the similarities it shared with a bar in The Big Apple called Please Don’t Tell. Judging by the entrance, it looked like a hotdog shop. “Then we noticed an old-school telephone booth. We punched in the code (provided via SMS after you make the call) and a brick wall swung open to a dimly lit room,” she says. The one in Delhi also has a code, the telephone and the secret door. But getting in there isn’t as tough. At least you’re not climbing into trap doors and a massive empty water tank that’s been redone as another such bar called The Night Heron (in the US).

Many of these bars, that often earn themselves the historic title ‘speakeasies’ for their secretive demeanour, have different entry techniques. But what most of them have in common is the fact that they aren’t out there to be seen. You need to hear about them. So make sure you keep your eyes and ears open, as will I.