New Delhi, Oct. 26 -- In a country dominated by cricket, other sports get little attention, let alone screen space. Among them is Formula 1 - one of the world's most glamourous sports. But things seem to have changed after the first Indian Grand Prix last year. "The Indian GP helped bring the sport to our screens," says Sahil Ludhani, director, Powerplay Sports Bar.
How has the spectator experience changed? "Driving to the F1 circuit is cumbersome. A sports bar offers you the convenience of meeting friends and watching the race at a nearby watering hole," says Tapan Sinha of Underdoggs Sports Bar and Grill which opened Asia's largest sports bar this month.
"If not F1, cricket has surely changed the sport-watching experience in bars in India," says Rajiv Makhni, technology expert. "Companies looking at the potential invested in high-end equipment like LED-based or high luminance projectors which made them easier to watch in bright surroundings." And when it comes to sound, F1 cars with their roaring engines are a thrill. Companies like British manufacturer Meridian Audio came out with Digital Signal Processing technology which rendered analog speakers obsolete. It is part of the surround sound system in Underdoggs.
Enthusiasm is high this time and events surrounding the F1 theme - like simulator racing contests along with the chance to win official merchandise - are expected to attract young followers. Ashish Ahuja, founder of Pebble Street F1 Fan Club, says, "The crowd that earlier came to watch F1 was in a minority. Now, many more people know about Schumacher and Alonso."
In the West, sports bars have existed for decades now. With the exception of Pebble Street, most of the bars across Delhi-NCR are only a year or two old. Incidentally, the culture caught up in western countries due to the lack of live sporting telecasts and awful home TV technology. But with the availability of high-end home entertainment will sports bars continue to be popular? "They may well be fighting a losing battle with people converting their personal space into entertainment lounges," says Makhni.
USP: Essentially a restaurant bordering on a pub, Pebble Street has been hosting Formula 1 nights since its inception in 1998. The club that opened the pub is Delhi's -probably India's - first ever Formula 1 Fan Club that keeps track of all the Grand Prix events all over the globe. Pebble Street is also a host to a lot of foreign nationals who walk in for a feel of a sports bar which has an Irish touch to it. Pebble Street organised a Red Bull Night Race where participants were given a chance to experience being present in a pit-stop, a near simulation. F1 quizzes are planned for other racing days.
Screens: One projector screen, three LCD screen, seats 95
Pricing: Rs. 1200-1500 for two, Rs. 200 for one pint of beer
Where: 8, Community Centre, New Friends Colony. Tel: 26844380
Underdoggs Sports Bar & Grill
USP: With massive projector screens and plenty of TV screens it easily fits the classic description of a sports bar. Quite serious about its kitchen backdoor, Underdoggs has a menu that ranges from American to Mediterranean. A Formula car simulator racing contest and an Indian GP quiz is being organised on Oct 28
Screens: Four projector and 40 LCD screens, seats 200; Six projector and 60 LCD screens, seats 400 at Gurgaon bar
Pricing: Approx. Rs. 1500-2000 for two, Rs. 175 for one pint of beer
Where: F38, Level 1, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj and Level 4, Ambience Mall, Gurgaon. Tel: 9818700006
Striker Pub & Brewery
USP: A pub and microbrewery, Striker is disguised as a sports bar during matches or races. It provides a variety of fresh in-house brews, along with snacks like dimsums, hummus with pita and fried corn. Striker opens the F1 with Sahara Force India Speed Nites, an evening where F1 will meet live music.
Screens: Two projector screens, eight LCD screens, seats 150
Pricing: Unlimited liquor with starter for '695 during the race
Where: 23, Global Foyer Mall, Sec 43, Gurgaon. Tel: 0124-4040101
Powerplay Sports Bar
USP: Multiple HDTVs ensure that every geometric angle of the bar has a clear view of the screen. Apart from zealous sport fans and multi-screens, the place also offers atleast 21 varieties of beer from different parts of the world including the powerful Thai Singha, the light Belgian Leffe Blonde and the Italian Moretti - delights for a beer aficionado. Powerplay has two PS3 and Xbox consoles so you can compete with other racing fanatics.
Screens: One projector screen, nine LCD screens, seats 100
Pricing: Approx. Rs.1000-1200 for two, Rs. 170 for one pint of beer
Where: JMD Regent Arcade, MG Road, Gurgaon. Tel: 9873505356
The Sports Bar
USP: The Sports Bar welcomes you with an amphitheatre-like arrangement and a giant screen that overlooks three levels of seating. There is also a basketball court, pool tables and, of course, booze, plenty of it. Mostly focused on cricket leagues, The Sports Bar is looking forward to the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix as it expects much greater footfall.
Screens: One projector screen, 16 LCD screen, seats 120
Pricing: Approx. Rs. 1500-2000 for two, Rs. 189 for one pint of beer
Where: The Great India Place, Sector 38 A, Noida. Tel: 0120-4573206
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.