Nepali Times
Rox regular


Friday night and the lights are low, and you're looking for a place to go. There's too much hassle in Thamel, dance floors are handkerchief-sized and the loos are horrific, most DJs in town just can't spin the kind of tunes that keep a large crowd going and often, so often, everything in this city seems old, just too familiar. And then you notice a steady stream of vehicles heading north towards Baudha and turning right. To where else but the Rox Bar.

This is where, every weekend, a rather eclectic crowd gathers. Budding young achievers rub shoulders with the already rich, royals dance a hair's breadth away from commoners, and there seems to be little distinction between diplomats and college students. The radio commercial for the Rox Bar says you don't need to be a rock star to go there, and they're right. With no real restrictions-except a dress code and a bill that can hurt at the end of a long evening-why go anywhere else for hyperactive dancing and people-watching?

But what is the real attraction? Ask any Rox regular. Most agree on the music. Others talk about the spaciousness. Still others say the staff doesn't give you attitude. "It's the safest and the most happening place, and I get to meet all my friends-and new people-there, which is great after a week of hard work," says Yalambar Khairgoli, a young entrepreneur. Of course, it is impossible to find any one unifying reason such a diversity of people would make the Rox their Friday evening home, but most people we spoke with who spend time there say this is the thing: it is easy to have fun at the Rox. You can be tired and just stop in for a quick drink and chat, but chances are, you'll be lacing up your dancing shoes soon enough, or at least tapping away in your chair either at the bar or one of the numerous cosy little alcoves the place is littered with, or catching the fresh air on the terrace outside.

Oddly enough, this isn't quite what the management of the Hyatt Regency had in mind when they initially started the Rox Restaurant and Bar. Following their international policy of having a trendsetting signature outlet on every property-the Grand Hyatt in Delhi has The Bricks-the Hyatt in Kathmandu conceptualised a sophisticated bar that would cater to an exclusive clientele, in simple terms, the rich and the richer. But after two months of exclusion, they realised that though this strategy may work in other cities, in small, democratic Kathmandu, it just doesn't cut it. That, and the fact that a significant proportion of big spenders in this town are younger people.

"We had to move along with the market trend and the original concept changed, but there is still the air of sophistication," says Charu ChadHa Rizal, public relations manager at the Hyatt. They were right. Soon, everyone was coming, as much for the funky blond wood and granite d?cor and three luxurious floors that invite spreading out, as for the totally mixed clientele. There came a time when people actually had to be turned away because the bar, the lounge and the restaurant were all packed with people knocking back the famous Caprioschka and grooving to the tunes of the Red Sky Walkers, the Rox's weekend band.

The music is the other major reason people can't get enough of the Rox-between the Red Sky Walkers and DJ Neill, you can hear Latin music, acid jazz, 70's disco and funk, grunge, as well as the latest hip-hop, much of it live. Says Abhaya Subba Weise, the vocalist with the Sky Walkers, "We are there to entertain people, and the crowd is varied. So we don't restrict ourselves to any particular type of music."

But all that popularity came at a price for the Rox. Along with the honest, fun-seeking crowd, there were also a few people who couldn't handle their alcohol, or simply couldn't countenance an ex-partner dancing with someone else, both of which led to fisticuffs a few weeks in a row. And so, the days of anything goes at the Rox came to an end, as all things too good to be true must. "Security has always been a big priority for us, after all we are an international brand name and we cannot let that image down," says Rizal. A dress code was introduced, and Kathmandu finally had its own version of the New York club rope-entrance was at the discretion of the management, and the management was strict.

That said, it is still a great place to go, and neither the emergency nor the rope have discouraged Kathmanduites who want to let it all hang out. Looks like the Rox is an addictive habit.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)