It hasn’t taken me long to learn that when the sun goes down, that’s when Bangalore really heats up. This isn’t Ibiza or Los Angeles but I have to admit that for such a conservative country like India that the nightlife has pleasantly surprised me. There are so many venues in town that there is literally someplace to go to suit any mood, any night of the week.
I love hearing stories about “before” the change in opening times and before the big bar boom that took place. With over 200 bars and clubs, the city is known as India’s Pub City. Though for me a pub is a beer bar and I haven’t personally seen loads of pubs around…but I don’t actually drink beer so to be honest I haven’t been looking out for pubs either. From what I know, the big boom happened right around the time that the city started growing into the 2nd Silicon Valley, which makes a certain amount of sense if you know San Fran and the Silicon Valley. In fact, my little brother lives in San Fran and works for a tech company in Mountain View and I have never seen anyone throw back more beers and enjoy a pub more than him. I bet he would kill for a quality Krakow stag do!
It’s been a strange transition for me here after living for the past 8 years in Barcelona. You see, there, the typical ‘night out’ went something like this: around 11:00pm friends would gather together at one friend’s flat for a pre-evening drink and to catch up. Then around 12:30am we would head out for drinks until 3:30am when the bars closed, and then we’d change from a bar to a disco and stay at times until 6am. After that, there is the option to go to an after-hours club or go to a friends’ flat for a chillout party. But typically, in Spain you’d head out at night with sunglasses because the sun would be up on the walk home. That’s something I really miss, actually…and something I have only done twice since moving here.
According to my mates, when the law changed and opening hours for bars and clubs was reduced, the party scene in Bangalore changed too. Long gone was the 2am closing time, with party goers happily heading home to grab some shut-eye after saying goodbye to their friends. Now bars start shutting down around 11:15pm, leaving most people still wanting more and not ready to head home yet. So they don’t. For many people, the night goes on when the bars close. You see, there is a massive post party scene here which I am having lots of fun experiencing. And because my group of friends are locals who were born here in town and they are friends with (or know) the owners of the hottest bars in town and have been part of the party scene for years and years – I am lucky to be experiencing it now.
What we have here is not an underground scene but in some ways it functions just like one.
Option one is quite exclusive, we go to an after-party at someone’s home or flat. The type of parties varies, trust me! I have been to gutted apartments that someone keeps for just this purpose that is massively stocked with booze and mixers, has a sound system but almost no furniture – and I know just about everyone since it is just friends. I have attended after parties in massive 8,000 square foot homes where I never did sort out who actually owned the home to say thanks and introduce myself – and where I only knew my actual friends. We’ve gone to the flat of “friends of friends” where there are a couple of people I know. These parties all tend to break up by 3:00 or 3:30am. They are fun as hell, too. We have a drink, listen to music and hang out solving life’s problems, dance, play silly games and basically just sit around trying to make each other laugh. Sometimes friends stop for food on the way, the favourite is a major pit stop at Empire. And if the police come because of the noise, one of the guys acts as liaison to the group, goes out to speak with them, passes some Rupees their way and that sorts out the problem 🙂 Gotta love India.
Option two is also very exclusive but in a different way. Bar owners will stay open or reopen after all the guests have gone for private parties for groups of friends or trusted patrons. I won’t mention bar names but they are the same bars that we visit (or would visit) anyway. There are a few stipulations surrounding these after parties. First, in some cases you aren’t allowed to park near the bar to avoid drawing attention from other party goers or the police. Second, the music is often either off or super SUPER low. This makes option two a little less fun than the private flat/home party but having a bartender on hand is a real bonus. If you want to bring food in with you it’s also fine, the owners don’t care because their kitchen is already closed. These parties don’t last as long as the others might but they are quite fun and you don’t have to clean up afterwards which is fabulous.
Option three is the most unique…but in a fun way! There are people in town who sort of convert their flat into a chillout lounge and offer drinks and food to approved, invited guests for a fee. The first time I went to one I was trying to get my head around this business. One such chillout is located in a flat on the 1st floor of a residential area downtown. The really sweet guy who runs it plays music at a pretty high volume. He serves drinks and will whip up eggs or other dishes for hungry guests. Or if you stopped for a masala dosa or other snack you can bring it in and eat it there. It’s pretty much like option one mixed with the benefits of the bartender from option two. I’m really curious how much money these places bring in and how they get away with the loud music?? I have enjoyed talking to a really diverse assortment of people, I mean this is the one spot I have had the opportunity to meet people that I normally wouldn’t meet elsewhere. It’s interesting.
Rumour has it that the closing time for bars will be changing again soon, hopefully back to 2am. Fingers crossed, because it would be nice not to have to move around town half way through the night anymore!!!
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011