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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Pandemic fallout: Home to Thugs & Chor Bizarre, Delhi loses a landmark in Hotel Broadway

In May as the city started to reopen after the lockdown, it was decided that Hotel Broadway — which hosted a bevy of politicians, industrialists and film stars over six decades — would shut shop.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Updated: October 28, 2020 2:01:41 pm
Broadway Hotel in Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Decades before Hotel Broadway in Darya Ganj opened a dingy bar in the ’90s called “Thugs”, which paid an ode to Hindi film villains, the hotel was frequented by Sheikh Mukhtar, one of the early villains of the industry.

“Every time he would visit Delhi from Bombay, he would only stay at Hotel Broadway… and we would eat nihari near Jama Masjid,” recalled Billoo Seble (79), a Delhi-based film distributor.

In 1956, J&K politician Tirath Ram Amla set up Hotel Broadway at Asaf Ali Road in Darya Ganj — an address that would soon become a landmark in the city. In 1990, Chor Bizarre, a restaurant that served Kashmiri cuisine, was set up inside the hotel, and Thugs, the bar, followed two years later.

In May, however, as the city started to reopen after the lockdown, it was decided that Hotel Broadway — which hosted a bevy of politicians, industrialists and film stars over six decades — would shut shop. Mukta Kapoor, who heads communications for Old World Hospitality, which ran the place, said, “Broadway and Chor Bizarre were both heavily dependent on foreign tourists, so the revenues had come to nought due to the effects of Covid. With social distancing norms and lack of tourist inflow expected to continue in the foreseeable future, it was thought best to shut down.”

A 1927 Fiat Balilla inside Chor Bizzare. (Source: Hotel Broadway)

She said there is no decision on what use the building will be put to in the future. The hotel employed 44 people, and Kapoor claimed all statutory and contractual dues have been paid to them.

Doors locked, all that hangs is a notice that says “no longer economically viable”, signed by Rohit Khattar, founder of Old World Hospitality Pvt Ltd.

In 1956, Hotel Broadway was the first high-rise building of Delhi. The tariff for a single room with bread and breakfast cost Rs 15.

Kapoor said that Amla’s daughter Vijay Lakshmi Khattar had taken over in the early ’70s.

It was when Rohit returned from the US that he decided to open a theme restaurant, and it was art curator Rajeev Sethi who suggested the name “Chor Bizarre”, which opened in 1990.

Sethi told The Indian Express, “This was in the late ’80s. The hotel was on the cusp of Old Delhi and New Delhi. The thieves’ market or chor bazaar was a stone throw’s away. Antiques, odd cutlery and furniture were sold as junk, and I told Rohit to buy all that — tables that didn’t match chairs, soup bowls that didn’t match the plates. I told him we will find order in that chaos, and we did.”

It was exactly this odd decor that regulars remember till date. Restaurateur Zorawar Kalra said, “We used to come here for the Kashmiri wazwan on Sunday. In the middle of the restaurant there was a vintage car that had salad plated.” The vintage car that Kalra mentions was a 1927 Fiat Balilla.

In 1993, when Bunny Seble (48) was a student at Delhi University, Thugs was the bar his friends frequented. Red walls, dingy lighting, beer barrels as decor, portraits of Hindi cinema’s finest villains — Mogambo and Gabbar, among others — welcomed the patrons. The bar menu too was true to its theme with cocktails and mocktails named ‘Mona Darling’, ‘Arre Oh Sambha’, ‘Don’s Daiquiri’, and ‘Lilly don’t be silly’.

Theatre veteran MK Raina said, “This is where we brought our non-Kashmiri friends. It’s sad it’s shut down. This is how a city loses landmarks.”

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