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Millennial Mix
The Gen Y (Why) Saga

  • Tribhuvan Chander

Bangalore's Love Affair with Pub Culture: A Historical and Cultural Perspective

It’s hard to believe when someone tells you, Bangalore was not always a city that knew how to have a good party. There is never a point in time where there isn’t a typical Bangalorean party story. There are numerous riveting tales most of us at Bangalore love to narrate. Whether it be one of those Friday night pub crawls, or that club that plays your favourite tunes or even those quaint nights you’d like to spend at those classic retro-rock ambient-styled bars, only to end up at that one friend’s house who has a big enough place to squeeze us all in for an after drinks party. But of course, we all complain and dismiss the nightlife in Bangalore because of the city’s hard stop at 1AM. Well, there’s always a way around it and we are quite glad that we could figure out that the trick is to start early at sundown and take it up till we hear the whistles blow and see those blinding blue-red beacons afar. 

Home to some 3000 odd bars and pubs, Bangalore loves to show off its classiest and grooviest bars in the country. With microbreweries literally at every corner, we end up being spoilt for choice. It is not just the sheer number but also its quality, which these places can boast about and presumably why F&B critics don’t hesitate to give out awards to them. I am no expert in food and beverages but I can certainly say that this city is the right place to experience hip culture. The city at night can get you to dance away and fill your souls with some live music, accompanied by drinking the fanciest beers and drooling over the best cuisine.

The millennials thrive on a city that inadvertently got its pub culture from its colonial past. Our British guests during their time here, decided to initially make Bangalore a destination for their military and administrative hub, which continued to remain so, of course, due to its home-like similarities of it being all quaint and peaceful. To top that, with its lazy, temperate climate and greenery, the English couldn’t dream of any better place to bump their beer mugs. With their beer mugs, they also brought with them the need to set up their elite clubs where they could relax, socialise and maybe even gossip about their General’s wife. And to do all of this, alcoholic beverages were their go-to accompaniment. With such a befitting background, this set the stage for companies like United Breweries beginning to be a sole supplier of its beverages to all these clubs and pubs. This British influence continued through the entirety of the 20th century which undeniably contributed to the city's cosmopolitan culture. 

Fast forward to the 80s, the city continued to harbour this Colonial hangover preserving its lazy, peaceful yet cosmopolitan culture. With the lush greenery being the biggest contributor to the city, it still continued to have the reputation of a town where you could relax and socialise in the clubs that the British left. The western influence was still a governing aspect of socialisation. There were places like the Bangalore Club and the Century Club that only had members allowed and had to dress and behave a certain way. There were also places like Dewars, originally a watering hole for the Britishers, where you would find old furniture in a run-down space with dull lighting, which almost always gives an inviting ambience for a drink. Somehow, the picturesque town of Bangalore refused to let go of the colonial effect.

Image Courtesy: Paul Fernandes

While the old timers continued to live their pensioner’s life, little did they know that their tranquil town would be stormed by an influx of people from all over the country and the globe. In a matter of a couple of years in the late 1980s, the city emerged as the epicentre of India's biggest tech boom. These high society clubs weren’t enough to house a new hip culture that came along with the mid 80s. This was the moment Bangalore realised it would soon become the Pub Capital of India. With an already existing reputation for social gatherings and the obligatory drink after a hard day’s work, it evolved and most definitely played a pivotal role in introducing the concept of a pub to Bangaloreans. The first pub made its entry into the city in 1986. With the concept of draught beer, Ramada Pub on church street, made a pioneering appearance for all the office goers. A cold mug of beer and a plate of masala peanuts by the side, made their working days less stressful. It wasn’t too long before many more pubs with the concept of ‘beer on the tap’ opened up in the district area of Bangalore and rightly so. Some of the city’s most iconic and celebrated pubs in the 80s that donned this idea were, of course Ramada Pub, Black Cadillac, The Pub and the Dewars Bar that continued living on with a slightly newer concept. Most of these famed pubs have either closed down or have been reestablished under another name, but the one that still stands tall is Pecos. Staying true to its style of retro ambience with classic rock music and affordable liquor, Pecos not only has their own little bunch of regulars but also a new set of audience that come with every generation. A visit to Pecos will undeniably give you a trip to the 80s - the golden era of the city’s pub culture.

Four decades later, the city still never fails to reintroduce its pub culture to its settlers. Bangalore has now hugely become a melting pot for a youthful vibrancy which dons various cultures. With Friday nights having parties at every corner of the city, Bangalore can now boast of an array of pubs and breweries, music being an integral part at its very core. Toit, Watson’s, Arbor Brewing Company, the Socials, Skky Lounge bar, Bob’s Bar and many more of these similar pubs take all forms, each having its own niche. Embracing various music genres, including rock, jazz, electronic, and even traditional Indian music, Bangalore’s pub scene has shaped the way the city experiences nightlife. Live music performances have also become a regular feature in many pubs, adding to the city's eclectic experience, occasionally also getting a feel of the retro times.

Although the experiences, the music and the ambience have changed, the ceremonious drinking culture in Bangalore has never changed. It goes without saying that while Bangaloreans party hard, there is always an added responsibility that comes with it.



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