CITY NIGHTS GET A LIFE

The rise of open mics, in­die mu­sic gigs and karaoke scenes is turn­ing Chen­nai vi­brant af­ter the sun goes down

The New Indian Express - - CHENNAI EXPRESS - Dia Rekhi

Even now with so many new cafes and pubs, there are large pock­ets where there is de­mand and barely any sup­ply—Man­ager

of a pop­u­lar resto-bar

KSrikanth moved to Chen­nai from Bengaluru seven years back to work with an IT firm. He was dis­ap­pointed when he re­alised that his op­tions to ‘hang out’ were lim­ited to a few bars — ei­ther the plush pubs in five-star ho­tels, or the poorly ven­ti­lated, seedy ones that reek of al­co­hol, sweat and smoke. “I was ex­tremely un­happy be­cause I felt that I barely had any op­tions to pick from,” he says. “I was liv­ing alone in Chen­nai and af­ter a tough week, some­times all you want to do is go to a place which plays some nice mu­sic, of­fers good food and chilled beer! So, I used to call peo­ple home be­cause it was a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment to have a party, and it worked out cheaper than go­ing to an in­cred­i­bly ex­pen­sive bar.” Known for its an­cient tem­ples, Margazhi ma­nia, and cof­fee cul­ture, Chen­nai is now turn­ing vi­brant af­ter the sun goes down. Touted as a ‘sleepy’ city for years, Chen­nai has now wo­ken up to an evolv­ing nightlife and party scene. CE spoke to var­i­ous stake­hold­ers to find out what has led to this quiet tran­si­tion.

Boom­ing busi­ness

“This was an ex­plo­sion wait­ing to hap­pen,” says the man­ager of a pop­u­lar resto-bar in the city. “Chen­nai had been closed to nightlife for far too long. Peo­ple visit other cities and ex­pe­ri­ence the nightlife there and want the same kind of scene in their own city where there are nu­mer­ous op­tions to choose from when they’re look­ing to grab a drink. Even now with so many new cafes and pubs, there are large pock­ets where there is de­mand and barely any sup­ply. So, it is a great time to be in busi­ness in Chen­nai be­cause there is a tremen­dous scope.”

Space for tal­ent

The surge in the num­ber of pubs has come as a boon for per­form­ing artistes who find it eas­ier to bag a gig. Model-turned-singer Aish­var­rya Suresh talks about how the city has im­mense tal­ent and they are now be­ing given many plat­forms to show­case their work. “I don’t think Chen­nai is con­ser­va­tive. It is pretty hip now,” she says. “We have tal­ented artistes who per­form all over the coun­try. In the past, we did not have enough av­enues to pro­mote our work. This is an ex­cit­ing time for us as per­form­ers. The year 2018 saw a lot of new bars and pubs open­ing, and I think 2019 is only go­ing to be bet­ter. These spa­ces help in­tro­duce peo­ple to our work as well. The city has a lot of mu­sic lovers who ear­lier had to go else­where to watch their favourite artistes per­form, but now peo­ple are be­gin­ning to per­form here. So, this will catch on.”

Silent nights, no more

It is not just mu­sic, but also open mic nights, com­edy gigs, karaoke nights and board game nights that are be­com­ing a huge draw for peo­ple to visit these clubs and pubs that are as much a place to ‘chill’ as they are a place to so­cialise. “We ex­pect such events to catch on but at a slower pace than other cities,” says a man­ager of an­other pop­u­lar bar in the heart of the city. “Chen­nai is a di­choto­mous city which makes it both a chal­leng­ing and ex­tremely re­ward­ing mar­ket. Peo­ple here drink at night and wake up to fil­ter cof­fee and suprab­hatam. That’s also the beauty of the city — the bal­ance be­tween tra­di­tional and mod­ern.” Few own­ers also say that it was ex­pen­sive to get a liquor li­cense and what came with it was a reg­u­lar pay­out to the po­lice and other govern­ment bod­ies. They say the ex­pense in­curred to set up, man­age and keep a liquor es­tab­lish­ment go­ing is the other rea­son we don’t see many stand­alone pubs in the city. But come what may, they say that peo­ple like Srikanth who move from other cities will not have the same com­plaints any longer.

Z File Photo

The surge in the num­ber of pubs has come as a boon for per­form­ing artistes

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