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DJ Aqueel’s running out of steam

When Bandra’s Poison shut down, Mumbai’s party hoppers hoped that DJ Aqueel Ali had another trick up his sleeve. Last month, he debuted Hype, his super-elite, super-expensive nightclub inside Atria Mall, Worli. But don’t expect it to be Poison part 2.

music Updated: Feb 12, 2010 18:25 IST
Rochelle Pinto

When Bandra’s Poison shut down, Mumbai’s party hoppers hoped that DJ Aqueel Ali had another trick up his sleeve. Last month, he debuted Hype, his super-elite, super-expensive nightclub inside Atria Mall, Worli. But don’t expect it to be Poison part 2.

Money talks
Meant for folks with free-wheeling wallets, Hype will make you lighter by Rs 3,000 even before you step through the door, ladies and couples alike. You must pay Rs 20,000 for a table, or sit near the smoking room. “They want to make it very exclusive, like Lap in Delhi,” says DJ Whosane! “Delhi is a flashy place, but Mumbai is more about equality and may not be ready for this.”

While Atria seems to have the right equation — parking space, no neighbours — Whosane! thinks that the club is limiting itself.
“The fact that a DJ like me doesn’t know much about the joint is a bad sign. Clubs have a very short life span and they need activity to stay alive,” he points out.

Clement D’Souza, the DJ at China House, Grand Hyatt, agrees that the place hasn’t generated the kind of buzz it was expected to. “Charging women entry fee won’t work because they aren’t used to being charged in Mumbai. They prefer paying for their drinks directly.”

According to D’Souza, door-screening works better than cover charges because people become desperate to get in. “It’s called face control - packing a club with good-looking girls and other people, even if they’re not drinking, keeps the place buzzing,” he reveals.

D’Souza also disagrees with the exorbitant table charges. “The super elite don’t party on a regular basis,” he explains. “The upper-middle class crowd parties about thrice a week, but if they feel unwanted, they won’t recommend the club.” Rahul Akerkar who owns Tote on the turf, another new pub that’s attracting partygoers, believes that the kind of crowd Hype is looking at might not stay loyal.

Rich but fickle
“The super-rich are a fickle lot. It is very risky to try and sustain on such a niche market. I find that it’s always better to remain accessible to the masses.”

Puneet Gidwani who used to handle promotions for Poison, says that lack of promotions is another problem with Hype. “There are a few foreign models handling publicity and checking entry. Still, people aren’t going to pay Rs 3000 just by looking at those models.”
But Hype’s owner isn’t worried. “Last weekend we had 300 people at the club. They come in by 1.00 am and don’t mind paying the cover charge.”

Claiming that he’s not like other club owners who are in a hurry to recover costs, Ali says, “I’m willing to wait. I see this club staying opening for at least another five years.”

Looks like DJ Aqueel is so proud of this place and likes it so much, that he wants to keep it only for himself

Since there wasn’t much ‘hype’ about this place when it first opened over a month ago, rumour had it that DJ Aqueel didn’t want to invite the ‘regular clubbing crowds’. Apparently, he wanted to maintain a strict elite group of partygoers, who would readily bid Rs 20,000 to book a tiny table with three even tinier stools at this over-priced and shady club.

Fail at step one
We didn’t spot any elitist patrons, but we did see a long list of inadequacies in their service and style… from the 15-page-long beverage menu crammed with unknown-but-extremely-expensive-sounding world spirits, to the AC that froze the cr*p out of every unfortunate soul there.

It all began at the counter. A Rs 3000 entry charge (full cover for two women) did raise expectations, but the 10 per cent service tax and 12 per cent VAT that surprised us at the bar was perfectly unpleasant.

Drink disappointment
After tasting their seemingly identical specials, Hypoholic (Rs 600 excluding taxes) and Hype Lemonade (Rs 600 excluding taxes), we knew better than to touch anything with the word ‘Hype’ in it.

The badly crushed mint leaves in the Hypoholic didn’t let it succeed as a Mojito, and the random tinge of Curacao added by the bartender to both drinks added to the sense of deja vu.

The DJ, who stuck to house music through most of the night wasn’t doing much to draw the few people to the floor, but the good part was that it refrained from the same-old Hip Hop numbers. Though, I’m sure we’ve heard better sound systems in the city.
The club, however, served six varieties of absinthe (Rs 600 excluding taxes) from around the world — something not seen at most other city joints.

The list of alcohol included an impressive collection of wines, champagnes, cachaças, long island ice teas (all for Rs 1000 excluding taxes), liqueurs (all for Rs 370), vodkas, dark rums, single malts, bourbon, Breezers (all for Rs 370) and beyond.
If you’re in a mood to taste tonnes of new booze at ridiculous prices, this place just might be it! But if not, then there is nothing to keep you from walking out so far.
The Melon Martini (Rs 600 excluding taxes) was impossible to swallow, no exaggeration. You might make it through the Banana Martini (Rs 600 excluding taxes) though, if you’re adventurous or if you’re from Delhi.
There weren’t too many options for the vegetarian party person’s tummy. As for the chicken starter, Tshing Hai (Rs 500 excluding taxes) — we’re pretty sure it tasted familiar. Don’t the Chinese stalls outside local stations serve similar stuff, we wonder?

Lacks aftertaste
The good things about Hype failed to erase the sour taste left in our mouths from the over-all experience. So far — we’ve been asked to vacate our stools; ushered to the smoking room to sit; told that charging VAT and service tax on cover is normal; served repulsive cocktails; been ogled at by men who didn’t look like they paid Rs 20,000 for the couches they were ‘seated’ on (evidently there are no stag entry regulations?). In short, they asked us never to return. And we’re sure we won’t.

What we like
They serve absinthe
The lighting at the bar
The positive attitude of the bar tenders when the place onlyhad 15 people at 12.45pm.
It was spacious (or may be it looked so, because it was empty)

What: Hype – The Club by DJ Aqueel
Where: 4th Floor Atria Mall, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli, Mumbai - 400018
Call: 022 – 224813799, 022 – 67363799, 9004775777
What’s on the menu: Absinthe among tonnes of other world alcohol, starters
Drinking: Yes
Smoking: Yes

What we don’t like
The 10 per cent service tax and 12 per cent VAT charged on the so-called full cover. People who don’t have Rs 20,000 to book three stools are forced to stand through the night.

The Hype special cocktails — tasted identical, were watered down and unimaginative. A shot of Curacao is not all that is needed to make a drink.
No bar stools
Air conditioning was too cold
The crowd

- With inputs from Serena Menon