Chennai bars uncork for the first time since COVID-19 lockdowns began

Bartenders are again in motion, whipping up your favorite poison — in face masks and shields. What does nightlife in the metropolis appear like in the grip of a pandemic?

“This time last year, we had a Sid Sriram performance and Bay 146 was packed with happy fans. This time, well, at least we are open,” says Sampath who handles Food and Beverage for Savera Hotel, and programming for its bar Bay146.

He sounds virtually rueful, however turns sensible when describing the myriad security directions spelt out by the State Government for bars in the metropolis to restrictedly reopen. “There should not be any activities which bring in more footfall — no DJs, no live acts, nothing,” he says, including, “The Government order came on September 3, and we opened our doors on September 4, from 11 am to 8 pm, as is allowed.”

Others have taken a bit longer, and lots of of Chennai’s favorite watering holes are lower than per week into their reopening. Having confronted the litmus take a look at of their first weekend in unlock, they’ve rather a lot to say, from modified seating plans and flooring plans to trimmed-down cocktail menus. The one change that stands out the most, nevertheless, is in the patrons.

Not the regulars

Zahir RR, proprietor of Radio Room in MRC Nagar, factors out that their standard crowd of 30-plus-year-olds — “we would prefer people sitting back with their drinks quietly” — are nonetheless cautious about stepping out, and their friends thus far consist largely of individuals of their 20s.

Black Orchid, Chennai’s signature cocktail Black Orchid Garden
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special arrangement

For Sampath, the new, considerably regular stream of weekday prospects is a novelty, in comparison with the dominantly weekend patronage that almost all lounges and pubs had been used to. Bay 146 now sees patrons of all ages by way of the day, and is totally bereft of quick-turnover bar hoppers. “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, people would stop by one place for a quick couple of drinks, move to another for dinner, and to a third to revel, and so on. Now, they would rather sit in one place for about an hour and a half, and then go home,” he observes.

Sanjeev Varma, proprietor of Black Orchid, explains that not like the metropolis’s household eating places and cafés that began cautiously opening up a month in the past, the hospitality companies that serve alcohol — like bars and golf equipment — had been awaiting permission from the State’s Prohibition and Excise Department. That order mandates, amongst different issues, a seating restrict of 50% of the bar’s unique capability. “Bay 146 roughly holds around 170 people in peak hours, so we can easily do around 70 covers at a stretch now,” says Sampath, including that they hold a two-metre hole between every of its 20 (down from 40) tables. Radio Room, a 120-seater bar, is permitting a most of 60 individuals in.

Ready to serve

  • Lord of The Drinks, Nungambakkam
  • Radio Room, MRC Nagar
  • Kommune, T Nagar
  • Black Orchid, RA Puram
  • The Cycle Gap, Anna Nagar
  • Gully Bar, Kilpauk

Black Orchid, on the different hand, is conserving solely 50 of its 220 seats out there, “but the crowd that comes in is not more than 10 to 15 in a day, so we can safely seat them at far corners of the space, with more than six feet of distance,” says Sanjeev.

However, Lord of The Drinks in Nungambakkam boasts about 100 walk-ins over the course of every day this previous week, at the same time as its seating capability has diminished from 300 to 150 at a time. “People usually come in by 6 pm and stay till closing time on weekends, and we get some steady corporate clients through the week,” says proprietor Raj Thiru.

Cocktail of conundrums

Bartenders at the moment are working in relative isolation, away from chaotic crowded orders and expectations of performative aptitude.

Bay 146 at Savera Hotel, Chennai has spaced out its seating arrangements

Bay 146 at Savera Hotel, Chennai has spaced out its seating preparations
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Special arrangement

All institutions are avoiding bar stools. Brands on provide are simply as many as standard, however cocktails and speciality drinks are fewer. Customers can order their drinks solely from their desk, and it is going to be introduced over to them.

At Savera, as an alternative of opening a number of kitchens, Bay 146 has elevated diner alternative by providing dishes from different eating places in the lodge. “Besides the bar, we had the option of keeping one restaurant open, where we serve the specialities of three outlets. If a family comes in, we seat them at Piano. If everyone in the group is over 21 and wants to drink, we seat them at Bay 146,” says Sampath.

Radio Room, too, operates its central kitchen for the bar, Fromage and Broken Bridge Café on the similar property. Adds Zahir, “We have a special cocktail menu out for Radio Room, and are not serving some speciality dishes that require a lot of pre-prep, till we get a better idea of how likely they are to be ordered.”

At Black Orchid, the first-floor bar is the solely phase that has opened thus far. “Our ground floor restaurant is still shut, and the food comes up by elevator from our kitchen on the mezzanine floor,” Sanjeev says, including that they’re permitting solely individuals with reservation, and never encouraging walk-ins. This additionally provides them some thought of what’s more likely to be ordered, since each kitchen and bar are working with fewer workers.

Yet to open

  • Barracuda Brew, Nungambakkam
  • Watson’s, T Nagar
  • Bass & Soda, OMR

Other haunts, like Barracuda Brew in Nungambakkam and Bass & Soda on OMR, is not going to be opening their doorways until October.

As Chennaiites stay cautious about stepping out to their much-missed watering holes, many plans rely on how these first-movers fare.

Lord Of The Drinks, Chennai

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