Unhappy hours set in on Saturday at the favourite watering holes of party animals in Gurugram's Cyber Hub. A Supreme Court ban on liquor outlets near highways across the country has left bar owners and patrons in low spirits.
Shocked customers shuffled from one establishment to another, asking if there would be any drinks on offer the next day, only to be greeted by blank looks from the management. Some thought it was an April Fools' Day prank.
The top court on Friday rejected pleas by hotels and bars seeking exemption from an earlier order to ban liquor vends within 500 metres of highways across the country from April 1. The court said exempting them from the order will defeat the purpose of preventing drink-driving. The SC, however, relaxed some norms for smaller municipal areas and two north-eastern states.
Cyber Hub is situated within 500 metres of the Delhi-Gurugram expressway, a national highway.
While business is down by 90-95 per cent, many restaurants say it's a miracle if customers turn up at all. "Footfall has gone down by 90 per cent at least. If this continues, we'll have to become a fine dining restaurant," said Lalit, the general manager of Imperfecto bar. "Also, things are so bad today that we are giving up our 'no kids post 6pm' rule, and actually have families dining with us for the first time since we opened this outlet.
The top court ruling, has hit hundreds of pubs, five-star hotels and other watering holes within 500 metres of national highways that will have to either go dry, or shut shop. The order is an attempt to reduce drunken driving on India's deadly roads where 1.5 lakh people were killed in 2015.
Ramesh, the manager of Soy 7, which is immensely popular for its ladies' night, told Mail Today that all bookings have been cancelled.
"We get more than 400 people here every Saturday. But today, we haven't had even one-tenth the number of customers," he said.
Sutra Gastropub, which had a band ready to get on stage for soundcheck when we reached, said it hadn't had one customer since morning. "We are cancelling the gig for tonight, and we have gigs four days in a week, so we're cancelling the ones for the upcoming couple of days as well," the manager said.
Beer Café, however, shut shop for the day, with some employees telling customers that they might be closed for four-five days.
Pradeep, an employee, said, "We don't know what's happening or when we would be able to start serving alcohol, if at all. Otherwise we'll have to stick to mocktails and food," which, as a bystander pointed out, means that they might have to change the name of the outlet.
The Social outlet in Cyber Hub also seems to be in a fix, with a plethora of IPL match screenings in the pipeline, but no booze to keep the fans interested.
Mail Today also came across many patrons in their 20s and 30s, who were left scratching their heads by this unexpected dry day dilemma at their favourite Saturday night joints. Says Rahul, who works in Gurugram and was there to go on a date, "I had finally progressed to asking a girl I like for an actual date, instead of just grabbing some coffee. I thought Saturday evening in Cyber Hub would be ideal, post work. But, maybe I should have checked before coming here." Rahul ended up having a great evening with his beau in Vasant Kunj.
A group of a dozen ladies was walking around from restaurant to restaurant. When we spoke to one of them - Pooja - she told us that they were looking for a venue to celebrate a friend's farewell. "We've been looking for half an hour, and we thought Cyber Hub would be the perfect choice since it's known to be one of the best drinking hubs in Gurugram. But now, we might have to drop the idea or do with dinner."Also Read