Bengaluru: Pub culture is an intricate part of Bangalore’s ecosystem, but the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the industry with its lockdown and containment measures. Following the relaxations from the Centre, the state government decided on Monday to allow pubs to serve drinks inside the pubs, but it begs the question, are bars safe to reopen?
The incandescent lights, the soothing music playing over while you sip on your refreshing drink in your hand has been the dream of most Bangaloreans during these past months. For most people living in Bangalore, going to a pub is not simply about getting intoxicated, it’s more of a holistic experience. They serve some of the best finger foods in the city, concoct cocktails that you dream of, and play all your favorite tunes; all of which add up to a perfect evening after a hard day at work. Plan B’s wings and Arbour’s pizzas are a crowd-pleaser across the city.
There is a pub for everyone. From clubbers to raging partyholics to one-drink people, Bangalore pubs cater to all our needs quite specifically. An avid pub-goer from the city knows where he needs to head out for some cold beer, crunchy fries, and classic rock music. The diversity in this industry has no limits. We have pubs floating on water, ones with the bird’s-eye view of the city, budget-friendly pubs, and not to forget the pubs that are so huge, you could get lost in them. You also have multiple microbreweries all over the town producing artisanal beer for the beer-lovers in the city.
A business that is so focused on satisfying the customer is also an awfully expensive business to keep running. So, when the sudden lockdown took away the luxury of hopping into a pub, it brought a frown upon both pub-owners and patrons alike. Pub owners had to incur heavy losses and continue to pay the license fees while the patrons felt trapped in their work-from-home scenarios.
The recent announcement to reopen pubs came as a huge breather but it came with newer challenges for pub owners and patrons alike. According to the guidelines provided, they must operate at 50% capacity, with the mandated use of masks and sanitizers, social-distancing, and thermal screening of the patrons. While pub owners are more than willing to comply with all the rules, customers are scared to step-out.
After the reopening, the city saw some popular pubs that remained shut while some opened in full swing. The ones that were functioning phenomenally before the lockdown, have managed to bring the buzz and biz back while others are waiting to get hold of their liquor and are operating with fewer staff.
Popular destinations like Bob’s Bar, Toit, and Byg Brewsky Brewing Company proudly claim to have a good turnout, but it is not the case for most pubs that are only receiving less than the permitted 50% turnout. “We are only getting 15-20% of the crowds. Most IT companies have given work from home option to their employees and unless they come out, we won’t have a good turnout” says Raghu, the Manager at Le Rock. Even though places are reaching their capacity, Byg Brewsky thinks that nothing is back to normal and expressed that some customers are worried about the safety of the place and this might hinder their business in the future. But most pub owners are hopeful that the business will pick up in the next two-three months.
Pub owners’ challenges are not limited to making a good turnout. “We had massive loses, it basically is like starting the restaurant from scratch” tearfully recount the owners of Tipsy Bull who are planning to reopen in the coming days. To revive a pub that has been deserted for the past few months, pub owners must focus their resources on comprehensive maintenance before overcoming their losses. From food to liquor everything has expired. Faulty music systems, pest-infestation, sanitizing every nook and corner are just some of the many obstacles placed in front of some pub owners. “Besides, there has been absolutely no help from the government, and we were forced to pay for our bar licenses” complains another pub owner.
Taking into consideration the daily rise in coronavirus cases in the city, it’s of foremost importance that we ask the question if the pubs are safe to hop-on. To this question, Tipsy Bull has an interesting take. “I think we shouldn’t just ask about pubs, have you seen the traffic on the roads? If you are on the city’s roads you can see people roaming around without masks…”. They think pubs are in fact safer than most places because adhering to pandemic-combatting procedures is at the crux of the plan to reopen the pubs.
Pub owners are planning to follow all guidelines and are going to refuse entry to customers who violate these rules. They are sanitizing the tables and facilities regularly, employees and patrons are being thermal-scanned, sanitizer is being administered at the entrance and some pubs are even offering masks to people. Each table is cleaned after the customer leaves and is sanitized before another customer sits. “If the reservation is full, we refuse them over the phone itself,” says Cynthia who is a hostess at Toit. Toit also added that till now they haven’t experienced any issues and their patrons have been very cooperative with all the regulations.
This heavy burden on the pub owners comes at a sharp cost to loyal employees. Cost-cutting by limiting staff and reducing salaries seems to the strategy employed by these pub owners to overcome theirs loses. “Staff has reduced drastically; we are working full-hours, but we are only getting paid half of our salaries,” says one employee at Byg Brewsky.
You can lead a horse to the water – but can you make it sit and drink? That is the question everyone is asking!
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