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Is Baner the new KP?

Restaurants are buzzing, real estate is booming and the crowd is always on its feet. Baner certainly looks like the Koregaon Park of west Pune

Till about a year ago, Koregaon Park ruled as the alpha and omega of recreation/entertainment in Pune. If you lived anywhere north or west of University circle, and did not want to miss out on the action - events, parties, top restaurants - you were destined to undertake the long haul to KP. But of late, several restaurateurs have been making a beeline for Baner. Better still, many youngsters from places like Kalyani Nagar and KP are heading to the western suburb on weekends. We got a little curious and here's what we found...

Higher footfall, higher numbers
For starters, consider that an international brand like Playboy Beer Garden, chose Balewadi High Street (BHS) for their first branch in Pune. "I think infrastructure is the key. There are 16 restaurants in BHS alone and we're doing business all through the week," says Ranjeet Kagade, MD of PB Lifestyle India. Ranjeet however, insists that Baner can't be considered the next KP because of the difference in crowd demographic. "While KP has the expat and cosmo population, Baner has the IT and student crowd," he says, quickly adding, "But as far as numbers go, Baner is doing much more than KP." Echoing Ranjeet's thoughts, Mumbai-based restaurateur Preet Singh Ahluwalia says that Baner can be called the Bandra of Pune. "That said, the overall APC (average per customer) in Pune is still very low - just half that of Mumbai. It's the sheer volume that makes the difference in Baner. We see around 400 people on a weekend night," 

No alcohol? No problem
Before you convince yourself that it's only places serving alcohol that are drawing crowds in Baner, you might want to consider what Raj Mehta, the director of Little Italy has to say. "One of our brands, La Pizzeria, is located in BHS. We don't serve alcohol yet and though it's one of our smaller outlets, business is at par with our bigger restaurants in other parts of the city. Baner has well planned roads, lots of parking space and the crowd mix - young professionals and families - means we get customers for lunch and dinner," , pointing out that while KP sees business on weekends, Baner is busy seven days a week, thanks to a crowd that eats out often

A market matter
All this commercial activity in Baner, is a result of the influx of people in surrounding areas like Hinjewadi, Balewadi, Wakad and Sus, feels Nishant Bhanagay, director of Rachana Lifestyles, a developer. He points out that all this commercial development means that property owners in Baner can expect values to go up by at least 10-15 per cent over the next year. "Especially with the development of Hinjewadi phase 3, Baner has become a self-sufficient commercial hub for the rest of Pune and property sales will increase now. Seventy five per cent of builders are tapping the higher middle class there," he shares.

Hear it from the locals
To catch a glimpse of all the 'action', we stopped by at BHS on a Saturday night. At 10 pm, all the restaurants were packed with families (happy children included), while youngsters sat on ledges, waiting for tables at their favourite watering holes. "We used to frequent FC Road, JM Road, etc up a year ago. We don't have to anymore. And the best part is that though so much commercialisation has happened, our rents have not increased too much," says Vishal Lodha, who works for an IT firm in Aundh. Most of the others agreed that KP is something they do maybe once a month now. And as Parag and Kinjal Bhayani, indicate, perhaps the only thing missing in Baner at the moment, is a mall with a multiplex. "Otherwise, we love the place. There's a good mix of people from all age groups and we get everything here. It's also close to the highway which means we can take off on drives without any hassle," says Parag, another IT employee.

Bar woes, no more?
About three months ago, we reported that residents around the Deron Heights building in Baner, wanted 'no bar at my dwaar', after reports of nuisance and loud music surfaced. But visit the place today, and you'll see resto-pubs still operational, with more coming up around the locality. Goldie Narang who withdrew his Agent Jack's Bar from the building after protests, still believes that Baner is the place for a restobar to be. "In my opinion, KP and Baner are at par with each other. Hinjewadi is second and Magarpatta and Kharadi come third," says Goldie, about the top three places for restaurateurs in Pune. He also adds that KP is still a clubbing hotspot, though not so much a dining destination. By the way, we hear that Agent Jack is set to make his comeback in Baner, soon.


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