The City Lacks Bars

Yeah you might think I’m crazy to be cribbing like this about Bangalore, supposed to be India’s pub city and all that jazz. But I stick to my statements. Yeah we might have lots of good pubs and lounges but we don’t have lots of good bars.

I was on my way to dinner at Fava at UB City this evening when I noticed the City Bar, and it struck me as to how few such bars there are in the city. Like places where you just go to the bar, get yourself a drink and literally hang around (around random small darshini-style tables) talking to people. I was reminded of my trips abroad, of places like London or New York which are so full of places like this one – where one just goes, buys a drink and hangs around.

My hypothesis of the shortage of such bars got some weight on our way out of Fava when we noticed how full the city bar was. It was like BTS bus 201 in peak hour – there wasn’t even any standing room!

Which makes me wonder why the culture of mid-to-high end standing bars hasn’t taken off in the city, especially considering our glorious tradition of darshinis and of standing bars at the lower segments (I hope you’ve noticed this – every “wine shop” literally doubles up as a standing bar, where people get stuff from the shop in a dirty glass, stand around and quickly gulp down. I must confess I’ve never drank at this kind of a bar).

Is it because the notion of a quick drink isn’t very well defined at the higher segments of our society? Is it because a “quick drink” is associated with the lower end of the spectrum and so the richer people don’t want to indulge in it? Could it be because of the exorbitant price of liquor licenses that makes it uneconomical to serve liquor cheaply enough to get enough crowds to sustain a standing bar? (most shady standing bars don’t have a bar licence; they run on wine shop licenses)

I must admit I’m a bit of a novice at this one (in terms of total quantity of alcohol consumed during my lifetime) but this really intrigues me. Why hasn’t the concept of higher end standing bars taken off in Bangalore? Has it taken off anywhere else in India at least? Again shady bars don’t count.

8 thoughts on “The City Lacks Bars”

  1. Putting alcohol traditionally frowned upon by middle class, who put the darshinis. India in gen doesn’t have a chilled out open attitude to liquor – so has been confined to either saraayi level places or pseud places for the well heeled. I don’t know about standing bars (people stand only when all the seats are taken no?) but Mumbai has a decent no. of places for a ‘quick drink’.

    1. fair funda! and yeah I suppose abroad etc. the standing bars are aimed at middle class only.

      and I still can’t forget The Podium, one ancient standing bar just outside the JP Morgan building in London. insanely cheap, but in its own way classy

  2. We should remedy your standing-bar-n00bness soon. It is as important a tradition as eating Dosa at a darshini.

    1. yessir. ready anytime. ok now i wonder if should hop across to “southend bar and restaurant andhra style” down the road right now

  3. I remember noticing the “Standing bars” when I was in Bangalore last month and pointing it out to the girl I was with. I haven’t seen too much of that here in Poona but I liked the idea.

    Speaking of bars, I also came with this theory of judging any new city I visited based on the quality of the crowd [their coolness, hotness, friendliness etc.] that I find at the dive-bars in that city. Any city in the world will have a good crowd at the high end bars. I want to see what’s in the dive bars before judging. Bombay rates very high on this scale. Poona, no.

  4. I have frequented the standing bar very often – but it’s generally considered ‘downmarket’

    I think the problem is actually with the supply-demand situation of liquor serving licenses. This is a severely limited number. Hence they all end up being upmarket. The liquor selling license illegally doubles up as a standing bar.

    There are actually sitting bars that are not as upmarket, but these are high volume places which you can’t take a lady too mostly. That’s the gap, I feel.

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