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The year Delhi partied with pride



Over the last few years, hardly anything has improved in Delhi’s nightlife. While the policies and rulebook remain stringent, restaurateurs have learnt to work their way around them to do business. However, despite everything, this was a happy year for some restaurateurs, as they finally got to run their business with ‘pride.’ The Supreme Court verdict to decriminalize homesexual relationships between consensual adults earlier this year was a happy news not just for members of the LGBTQI community, but it also gave restaurateurs a reason to rejoice. For years, most restaurants stayed away from hosting hosting parties and events for the LGBTQI community, fearing “bullying from the cops or a negative reaction from other guests who are alien to the idea of inclusive spaces.” So, after the SC judgement, many restaurants in the city grabbed the opportunity and flooded their online pages with offers painted in rainbow shades and opened their doors to LGBTQI-inclusive events and parties.
The biggest change in Delhi’s nightlife this year was that now, restaurateurs are working towards creating “more inclusive spaces, where there won’t be rules like ‘stags not allowed’. And two men walking into a club will not be stopped if they say they are a couple.” Hopefully, we would see these changes from New Year’s Eve parties in NCR.

LGBTQI special events and parties

Though restaurants had the legal right to host these parties, it was considered a risk, irrespective of the revenue it would bring to the venue. How opening spaces for the LGBTQI community can be an excellent business model was proved when parties at a five-star club in Delhi became popular not just among people from the community, but the rest of the party crowd as well. Entrepreneur Keshav Suri, who was one of the petitioners in the plea to decriminalize homosexual relationships, says, “Be it corporates or restaurateurs, everyone recognises the spending power of the LGBTQI community. There were a few restaurateurs (like AD Singh and chef Ritu Dalmia) who started doing special events for the community to promote the idea of inclusivity even before the SC judgement. There were many who wanted to do such events (for the LGBTQI community), but often quoted reasons like ‘we don’t want to invite the cops’ attention’. Now, since the law is with us, that fear is gone. What we are doing at Kitty Su has proved what this can mean for business – otherwise, why would I be doing it (hosting special events for the LGBTQI community) for the last two years? It has already been proved that special events, parties, and drag performances are a great business model. It is a good sign that many restaurants are working towards creating safe spaces for the community and are also educating their staff about it. We all must understand that Section 377 never stopped anyone from hiring, hosting or running a diversity program. I hope there are more inclusive celebrations in the city and country, as true change will only come when we all accept and can take pride in our diversity.”

Pooja Moirangthem, one of the owners of What a Comic Show in GK II, adds, “Sponsors showed no interest in the first edition of What a Pride Night – an event to celebrate the Pride month.” But the event has recently completed its third edition at the same venue, and Pooja says that there is an increased awareness about it and more people – not just from the community – are willing to be a part of it. “Restaurants now recognise that there is demand for more queer-friendly spaces, gigs and parties in the city. They also realise that there are expats, travellers, corporate people who are open to attending such parties and spending money,” she says. Restaurateur Priyank Sukhija started hosting special events and weekly performances at his Mumbai restaurants and says that “the response in terms of business has been astounding.” He adds that he is working on the line-up for special nights that will draw more people from the community for some of his restaurants in Delhi.

Though Section 377 never prohibited LGBTQI parties or events, fear of moral policing prevented many restaurateurs to come up with these events and parties. Vikas Narula, co-owner of Depot 48, which came up with the concept of Pink Tuesdays, says that when they started Pink Tuesdays, he would often hear people say that “it’s a special night for the queer community, so we should not come on Tuesdays.”

Ishaan Sethi, who created a networking app for the queer community, says, “The LGBTQI community is a trillion dollar market around the world and the reason why we were not seeing much happening in India was Section 377. Though as per the law, Section 377 never stopped anyone for holding special meets or parties, people often quoted it, thinking that they will get into trouble if they would host such event. Now, that it is gone. Even corporates are coming forward to provide employment and support and there are more people want to create inclusive spaces for the community.”

More employment opportunities to people from LGBTQI community in the hospitality sector

The F&B industry is one of the largest employers in the country and after the SC judgement, there are many companies that are making changes in their HR policies to employ more people from the LGBTQI community. There are some restaurants and hotels in Delhi that already have many people from the community working with them. Rahul Singh, president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), informs us that it won’t be a surprise if soon there will be cafes, lounges and eateries run by people from the community. “The inclusivity is one of the biggest changes we have witnessed in the hospitality sector after the change in the archaic law that prevented many from promoting inclusivity,” he says.

More events for the community in the months to come

The last few months – after the SC judgement – went into planning how restaurants can promote the idea of inclusive spaces, and the change will start showing from New Year’s Eve. Many places are giving their staff gender sensitisation training to welcome all guests at New Year parties this year. In the new year, more events and parties with a special focus on inviting people from the community will become a part of the weekly event calendar. Priyank Sukhija says, “We have started these parties in Mumbai where Sushant Divgikar (Mr Gay India 2014, who is known for participating in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in his drag avatar) performs, and we are in talks with him to start something in our Delhi restaurants too. We are planning to get more artistes like Sushant, but we don’t want to restrict these events to just the LGBTQI community.”

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