India's only 'condom bar' is on a high within four months of its launch - liquor sales combined with the distribution of free condoms are on the rise, making it a successful venture despite initial apprehensions.
The pick-ups of free and paid condoms by customers at the bar-cum-discotheque have been doubling with each passing month. Female condoms are also being taken away from the bar by women though the numbers are still marginal.
Located at the Kalagram complex on the busy Chandigarh-Panchkula highway, the bar was a regular watering hole for a couple of years but it was given a condom theme in May.
"The initial apprehension that people may not like to go to a place like a 'condom bar' has given way to the reality of life," said Jasbir Singh Bir, managing director of the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corp (CITCO) which runs the bar.
"People don't mind coming here. The figures speak for themselves," Bir told IANS.
People picked up 456 condoms at the place in the first month. This included six female condoms.
In June, the number rose to 873, including five female condoms. In July, the condom distribution again nearly doubled to 1,394. In August, the figure touched nearly 2,200.
Bir, a serving bureaucrat who is the man behind the novel 'condom bar' venture, had dared to go ahead with the project even though it was touted as "too risky" by officials.
Once it opened, the bar attracted worldwide attention. The media from Canada, Australia, the US, Europe and, of course, India covered it extensively.
It has interiors decorated with real condoms and has beer mugs in condom shape. The staff uniform bears a condom logo. Billed as the country's first 'condom bar', it aims to make people, especially youngsters, aware of AIDS and the need for safe sex.
Besides making available free condoms as well as priced ones, it even gives condoms in lieu of loose change.
"It was a new concept and the success of the place shows that people have accepted it. A visit to the place shows that there is nothing vulgar or cheap about it. It gives a message subtly," Bir pointed out.
Liquor sales at the bar too have shown a 10-12 percent increase in sales this year from May-August compared to sales last year. In June, sales hit a high of nearly Rs.162,000.
A visit to the bar reveals that the condom bar concept has been lapped up. Though the number of tables and seating is limited, the place is full most of the time throughout the week.
"We have been here with friends a number of times. We have also seen women sitting here and nobody has ever felt embarrassed that they are sitting in a condom bar. It is a unique place. There is nothing offensive about it," said businessman Amrik Sekhon.
The staff said people do not show any inhibition in asking for condoms. "They ask for condoms as they would ask for a drink. We are more than obliged to provide some," a bartender said.