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Where are Mumbai’s dance floors?


Let’s go clubbing’, ‘Hey, can you squeeze me in the guest list?’, ‘What’s the cover charge?’, ‘Stag entry not allowed!’ If you were a party animal in the late 90s and early 2000s, these comments will take you back in the day when Mumbai boasted of a robust and thriving club culture. Partying on a Saturday night then often involved dancing till the wee hours at the most happenin’ nightclub in town.

However, the city’s nightlife culture has undergone a sea change in the recent past. Traditional discotheques have taken a backseat, as more and more people are opting for lounges, restobars, sheesha joints and sports bars to let their hair down. Even though five-stars are intermittently seeing the re-emergence of dance clubs, there are very few stand-alone discos in the city. In fact, youngsters today often opt to go ‘lounging’ than ‘clubbing’. So, why have the number of dance floors in the city gone down?

A change in the way Mumbaikars party
In the past, the discos and pubs in the city were heavily influenced by nightlife in the West. But since the last five years, the industry is trying to strike a perfect balance between building restaurants and discos. Says Jigar Sanghvi, co-owner of 1Above, a rooftop restaurant and bar in Lower Parel, “A decade ago, clubs primarily comprised designated dance floors; these played English pop and trance music and served heavily-priced drinks. But today, people want to eat, drink, dance and chill under one roof rather than visit three different places in the same night. That’s why modern-day retro bars and lounges are preferred. They offer good food and beverages at acceptable pricing and also have a stellar club ambience.” Lounges are curating an experience that the urban consumer loves to indulge in. Keenan Tham, owner of Trilogy, which is one of the few clubs to have a designated dance floor, agrees, “The traditional nightclub format in Mumbai has changed because a lot of new places are doubling up as lounges and clubs. The current trend is to have new spaces that don’t have a specific dance floor, but people are okay with dancing at their own table.”

For many millennials today, dancing isn’t the only way to unwind. That’s why bars and lounges are offering their patrons indoor activities like cards and board game nights, too. “From Monopoly and Uno to Jenga and Cards Against Humanity, you can indulge in party games, and sip on beer for a reasonable price. I find that a much better way to relax,” says Mitali Shah, a PR consultant.

Blurring the lines between restaurants and nightclubs
Priyank Sukhija, who owns Tamasha, and has been a part of the nightlife industry for over a decade now, says that while some lounges still have dance floors, many establishments are going for all-day bars. “Right from breakfast to your midnight cocktail fix, restaurateurs are trying to build one-stop venues.” Sharad Mathur, a media professional who regularly goes lounging with his friends, shares why he prefers the change. “Earlier, we either had discotheques or restaurants. Slowly, the gap between the two narrowed after lounges came into the scene. The alcohol prices were low and they played good music that lured diners to shake a leg. Personally, I don’t mind even dancing at my table because I can keep my drink near me and not go around looking for it when I’m done dancing.”

Early deadlines have played spoilsport
According to restaurateurs, one of the main reasons behind the disappearance of dance floors in Mumbai can be attributed to the draconian curfew hours. Riyaaz Amlani, President of National Restaurant Association of India and owner of the Social chain, says, “In the 90s and early 2000s, we had some great clubs in Mumbai. But then, RR Patil and Dhoble happened (referring to the series of raids on pubs, bars and discotheques and the subsequent detention of revellers). Nightclubs that open till 3 am now shut down by 1 am due to the existing deadlines. The early deadline has killed the entire nightclub culture in Mumbai.” Mihir Desai, co-owner of The Bar Stock Exchange, adds, “On weekends, people usually step out of their homes late when they want to go dancing, but unfortunately, by the time they reach any club, it’s time to wrap up. In five-stars, the nightclubs have extended deadlines (3 am). Since the timings are not uniform, many standalone places have given up on their dance floors and converted into bars.” He believes having special entertainment zones will help the cause. “Perhaps they should extend deadlines on Fridays and Saturdays to at least till 3 am,” he suggests.

The nostalgia of nightclubs
Despite changing preferences, there are some hardcore partygoers who miss the city’s dance floors. Rajiv Gopinathan, a retailer from Kuwait, who has been frequently visiting Mumbai over the past few decades, rues, “In the past, chilling out and partying meant going dancing. Shaking a leg at clubs was a regular phenomenon in the 90s. We used to hang out at places like Go Bananas, Xanadu in Juhu, R.A.T.C. (Rock Around The Clock) in Bandra and Ravi Ghai’s RGs at Marine Drive. Today, we don’t find these kind of places anymore. Dancing not only made us forget our worries, but helped us make new friends. It’s a pity that there are hardly such nightclubs anymore. Though I visit many lounges today, it’s not the same as dancing at a club.”

Source: Times of India

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