Pubs double up as shelter homes in Bengaluru

Pubs are the lifeline of Bengaluru and ensure that nobody gets left behind. During the lockdown too, staff and friends found refuge from this quarter

We built this city on pubs and IT. But many of these pubs served the people of Bengaluru well during the pandemic. They may have been closed for food and beverage to paying customers, but many pubs became shelter houses for their employees during the lockdown. When pub owners could not pay salaries to their staff, thousands of employees, mostly from North East India, were thrown out of their houses for not paying rent. With pubs running empty and not being allowed to operate, some pub owners allowed their employees to shelter in their pubs through April and May.

Madhan, a bartender from Sikkim, has been employed in a pub in Koramangala. During the lockdown, Madhan said he and his colleagues took in many of their friends who had been thrown out of their homes by their landlords when they could not pay rent. “Some of us were living in guest rooms provided by the owner of the pub. Our rooms were located behind the pub.

When we took in our friends to stay with us, the owner allowed them to sleep in the pub. There were about 15 people living in the pub. Though the owner did not provide them with food, they were allowed to use the kitchen to cook meals for themselves. Many NGOs supplied us with ration kits. As the lockdown was lifted, many started getting funds from their families and started returning to their hometowns. Now it’s just my friend and I staying in the guest room and none of us have been paid in the last three months.”

Some of us were living in guest rooms provided by the owner of the pub. When we took our friends in to stay with us, the owner allowed them to sleep in the pub. There were about 15 people living in the pub

– T Madhan, a bartender at a pub in Koramangala

Rahul Rai, President of North East People’s Voice Foundation (NEP) said, “With pubs and bars

not being allowed to operate, the owners of these establishments did not pay them their salaries. Many employees were thrown out of their rooms and had to take shelters inside these pubs and bars. We visited many such pubs and bars during the lockdown and provided the staff with food and rations. We also gave them monetary help to return to their states after the special trains started running.”


Rai says that there are about seven lakh people from Darjeeling, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, employed in Bengaluru. “Only half of them have returned. Those who were working in restaurants, pubs, bars and salons were affected the most as even after the relaxation of the lockdown, restaurants were the last to open. Pubs are still not functioning as per normal. While some restaurants started their business by taking online deliveries, they also started laying off people who were in the service department. Now that trains and buses have started, those who were sheltering in the pub have been sent back to their hometowns. Some who have been provided rooms by their employers have stayed back in the hope that they will resume work soon.”

Pubs became a place to shelter for some of their staff because those from Darjeeling, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim did not have direct trains from Bengaluru, says Rai. “They had to go West Bengal or Assam and from there they had to take another bus to reach home. Few arranged for private buses to reach their states and each person paid Rs 7,000. Those who could not afford to pay, are currently staying here in the city with their friends, in the hope that they get other jobs in the city,” added Rai.

When Bangalore Mirror visited five pubs that sheltered their employees two days ago, all of them said that the workers had left for their home towns after living there for two months.

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Sagar Biswas

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