“It only happens in Mangalore,” said Mumbaiites in response to Mangalore’s pub culture debacle. So, exactly how cool is pub-hopping in Mumbai for the ladies? Rochelle Pinto attempts to find. The mission: to test Mumbai's attitude towards pub-hopping, cocktail-swirling women. The bait: Nandini Vaid and Gaelyn Mendonca, leggy models and pub regulars.
You don’t have to be in a club to attract unwanted attention. The mere walk from Regal, Colaba to 4th Pasta Lane where Bootleggers is located, is peppered with wolf whistles and ‘hey gorgeous,’ which our volunteers ignore. Some enterprising lads try to unsuccessfully bump into them, but even a month in the Maximum City equips you with enough flexibility to dodge a bullet.
9.00 pm The bouncer at the entrance is polite, his eyes dutifully focused above the neckline. Though the joint is literally empty , the waiters don’t stand around gawking. But no action meant it was time to move on. 9.30 pm Next stop. Leopold Café is abuzz with activity. But surprise surprise, nobody turns to acknowledge the models. Too pre-occupied with a never-ending rush of diners, even catching a waiter’s eye isn’t easy. Famous for its relaxed environment and occasionally over-friendly guests, Leopold doesn’t seem like it’s going to serve up any controversy tonight.
10.30 pm Enter Hard Rock Café, and the mood begins to shift a little. Thankfully, there’s security at the door asking to have bags checked. Our model sleuths are pleased, it’s good to know that leggy ladies with killer smiles are treated like the rest of us lesser mortals.
Summoning a waiter is no problem, in fact he seems more than happy to take the order. But despite the high voltage energy this guy exudes, he’s being strictly professional. Interestingly, he points out all drinks that are popular with the ladies. Kudos to the women who are fearlessly raising their glasses in the city.
Heads start turning, even though most of the admirers have female companions at their tables. Unafraid to offer their appreciation, the male pub crawlers smile and wink. The girls can’t decide whether the looks are lecherous or positive and wonder aloud whether anyone is brazen enough to approach them. No worries, nothing happens.
With several political voices like Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa joining the anti-pub protests, are pub owners in Mumbai worried? Does this show of support by the moral police spell an end to the city’s celebrated tolerance towards all?
Despite Mumbai’s history of sporadic violence, some club owners are of the opinion that the Mangalore incident will not repeat itself here. Samir Chhabria, business head of members-only club Privé, says, “We’ve only had one minor altercation in our club over the past four months. I don’t think there is a risk of any trouble.”
Even though extremist groups are active in Mumbai, Ketan Kadam, owner of Magic in Worli agrees, “They have never caused any problems to our business. Besides this is a cosmopolitan city, the culture here is progressive and tolerant.”
Dinesh Shetty, operations manager at Hard Rock Café, says, “Our
location allows us to keep an eye on what’s happening outside the club, as well as inside. Besides, we have good relations with the police and in the event of any incident, they are only a phone call away.”
But the memories of Mangalore seem to have shaken up some establishments, who preferred to reserve their comments to avoid any backlash. Anupam Sehgal, representative of China House at the Grand Hyatt says, “It’s a sensitive issue and we are not comfortable associating ourselves with it.” Ditto for the management at Bootleggers who are unwilling to take sides on the issue.
Determined not to take a gamble with the safety of their guests, clubs and pubs around the city have already begun setting up extra security
Hard Rock Café has instructed their servers and bouncers to make sure the women guests aren’t bothered by errant revellers. “Our servers are instructed to intervene if they see any man trying to get too cosy with a group of women. If the women complain that they are being harassed, we throw the offenders out.. no questions asked.” says Shetty. They have also instituted a policy of controlling the alcohol consumption on busy nights. “If we notice that a guest has been downing one drink too many, and is getting rowdy, we water down his next drink and offer it complimentary. That keeps them happy because they think they’re getting free drinks.”
Ashrafi Oshidar, freelance DJ says, “Membership is always helpful in maintaining the quality of the crowd. But even VIPs should be checked before they enter a club. You never know who can start trouble.”
At Privé, Chhabria makes sure that registered members vouch for their companions’ behaviour. “If we’ve been having a problem with any member’s guest, we let them know that their membership is at stake.” Chhabria also routinely hires extra bouncers for the weekend. “We strengthen the security inside the club because most fights are likely to take place inside. And of course, we don’t hesitate to reject those who we feel might be troublemakers.”
Kadam points out that the biggest evolution has been in the way women handle themselves. “In the past, women would complain if they had someone harassing them. Today, they won’t hesitate to be rude to a heckler to send him packing, instead of relying on the bouncers.”
Even so, Kadam has instructed his bouncers to watch out for the ladies and make sure that they aren’t harassed. “The security has been advised to use force to get the trouble-makers out of the club without joining in the fight. Once outside, if the problem is serious, we call the police.”
So is Mumbai then pub-happy for the girls? Well, the jury is still out on that matter.