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‘Noida Nites’—no longer just a boring family-friendly NCR suburb. It’s now a party hub

At the heart of Noida's transformation is sector 38’s Gardens Galleria mall, aka the ‘Tinder of pubs’.

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When animator Tanmay Sharma moved from Lajpat Nagar to Noida six years ago, his friends warned him about the dead dating and partying scene. Alone in his spacious apartment in Noida’s Sector 70, with its manicured gardens, towers and gated housing societies, Tanmay realised he had taken his active social life for granted. In his former neighbourhood in South Delhi, pubs in Connaught Place were easily accessible, and Gurugram’s Sector 29 was worth the drive. Noida in 2016 was starved for the fun factor.

But during the pandemic, when everyone was hunkering down in their flats, Noida was undergoing a quiet transformation. And like a fledgling spreading its wings, the city emerged from the third wave of Covid-19 with shiny new pubs, microbreweries and restaurants offering air-dining services or run by artificial intelligence.

The timing was perfect. Deprived of social gatherings and desperate for entertainment, residents of Noida arrived in droves. As word spread, people from Gurugram and even Delhi turned their gaze east.

From residents to office goers, everyone flocks to Gardens Galleria for a good time | Satendra Singh | ThePrint
From residents to office goers, everyone flocks to Gardens Galleria for a good time | Satendra Singh | ThePrint

“I no longer have to travel all the way to Delhi. Gardens Galleria has more pubs than even CP, I think. I often head to the mall to meet friends,” says Tanmay gleefully.

From a city with nothing but rows upon rows of gated properties, Noida is set to emerge as the ‘it’ place in the National Capital Region.

The ‘Tinder’ of pubs

At the heart of this transformation is the 13 year-old mall, Gardens Galleria in Sector 38A, which is home to more than 20 pubs. From My Bar, which is famous for its cheap alcohol rate, to Noida’s first in-house microbrewery, a Lord of the Drinks franchise, the Ministry of Sound and nightclub El Paso, Gardens Galleria is like the Tinder of pubs, albeit a brick-and-mortar version. There’s something for every alphabet in the generation spectrum from X to Z.

Khusboo Ahuja, a research associate at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), who lives in Delhi, says she often comes over to the Gardens Galleria mall with friends or family. “There are a lot of choices here.” Dressed in a black dress and in the mall to celebrate a baby shower, Khusboo says she quite likes the feel and vibe of the place.

This is not the city’s first attempt to transform itself. Pubs have opened in Noida, more specifically at Gardens Galleria before, but have shut down equally fast. Tito’s, for instance, opened in 2018, but downed its shutters during the second wave of Covid. However, Gardens Galleria’s latest metamorphosis looks like it’s here to stay. For one, there’s plenty of variety in terms of entertainment, which is drawing in more people than ever before.

Every Friday night, families with kids in tow, young couples heady with new love, and friends looking to ‘chill’ are drawn like moths to the neon signs announcing the newest pub or restobar. Even during weekdays, there’s a steady flow of patrons.

Brinesh Chandra, who along with his colleagues had flown to Noida from Kerala for a weekend meeting at their head office, was suitably impressed. “We are excited to explore the place. I did not expect this place to have so many options,” he said.

Aero Restro, between Gardens Galleria and GIP, is a big hit among visitors | Satendra Singh | ThePrint
Aero Restro, between Gardens Galleria and GIP, is a big hit among visitors | Satendra Singh | ThePrint

The area outside Gardens Galleria mall is home to two innovative dining places–Fly Dining and Aero Restro.  While Fly Dining offers patrons a chance to enjoy a meal while suspended in the air by a crane, Aero Restro recreates the experience of dining inside an aircraft, but with better food and a ticket that costs Rs 100 per person on weekends for boarding and Rs 50 on weekdays.

The Boeing 737-200 placed between GIP and Gardens Galleria has an engine, built by Rakesh Dixit, head of Dixit Aeronautics, a cockpit and an aisle. Waiters dressed as flight crew complete the experience. It’s especially popular among people who cannot afford air-tickets for an entire family but want to experience how it feels to dine inside an aircraft.

Aero Restro even boasts of a cockpit | Satendra Singh | ThePrint
Aero Restro even boasts of a cockpit | Satendra Singh | ThePrint

Also read: Noida vs Gurugram race is heating up. All eyes on Chautala’s job quota and Yogi’s Jewar

Shift from family entertainment

Ajai Chowdhry, co-founder of Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL) calls Noida a “family-friendly place.” Gurugram, he pointed out, had pubs and bars and hooliganism. But Noida had parks, good schools and affordable housing. In keeping with the demography of its residents, entertainment and weekend outing options were all geared towards families.

In 2007, the Great India Place mall and the amusement park, Worlds of Wonder, were welcomed by residents. Rashmi Sharma, who had shifted to the city in 2005, said her children were the first to tell her about the amusement park, and clamoured to be taken there. “We were relieved too. There was something finally in the city to take our children to, without the mandatory drive to Delhi.”

Eight years later, Logix City Centre opened up in Sector 32, with a glittery PVR, and soon after in 2018, the Imperfecto Ruin Pub, which claimed to be ‘the biggest pub with the longest bar’ opened its doors in the complex.

By then, an increasing number of people in their 30s and young couples had started calling Noida their home. Those working for multinational firms and media houses, who relocated to the city for its gated societies, parking spaces and affordable housing, were unhappy with the limited choices. An amusement park, a multiplex and even the longest bar were not enough.

Also read: Noida has a new sector. It’s called humour

Playing catch-up with Gurugram

In many ways, Noida is still playing catch-up to Gurugram, which has had a 10-to-12-year head start, especially with microbreweries. In 2021—nearly 12 years after Gurugram made its foray into the microbrewery business in 2009—only two establishments in Noida grabbed MB5 licenses, required to open a microbrewery. Today, Gardens Galleria alone has 10 microbreweries.

Noida may be late to the race, but it is definitely catching up. Rajeev Singh, general manager at Ministry of Sound India says, “The response has been very good so far. We only keep German malts, and have a lot of corporate executives coming to sample the beer.”

Gurugram aced the bar scene culture with Sector 29. People from all over NCR would make their way to this area on Saturdays, party, find a bed and breakfast for the night and head back home in the afternoon. Noida can threaten this little ecosystem. “We used to go to Gurugram every other weekend because my friends and I love beer. But Noida is closer to us, and I’m happy to try out the new microbreweries that have come up there,” said Animesh Jain, who lives in Delhi.

Also read: Jewar’s taking off but on ground are broken promises, villages divided & jobless crorepatis

Not just sector 38A

It is not just Sector 38A and Gardens Galleria that have experienced a makeover. The Flying Dutchman, Noida’s biggest microbrewery,  also opened its doors in August 2021, in Sector 63.

A couple of kilometres from Sector 38A, in Sector 104, two robots, Diva and Ruby, serve patrons at NCR’s first AI themed-restaurant, NAME. Jiishu Bansal, a student of Gulshan Kumar Film & Television Institute of India and the person behind this unique restaurant, says, “I came to know about the concept of a robot restaurant, which is pretty common and popular in Japan. I decided to research and finally, this restaurant happened.”

The area itself where the restaurants are located, also has emerged as a bustling shopping avenue, with a variety of shops, salons and eateries.

Vidushi, a flood blogger from Noida, said she was impressed by the seamless service. A family seated at the place had two excited kids happy about the robots and decided Diva was their favourite among the two robots.

Noida doesn’t possess the charm of South Delhi or the manic glitz of Gurugram–not yet at least. But what it does have is space, a ready and deprived customer base, and entrepreneurs looking to open the next new hotspot. Noida Nites, anyone?

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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