For over a decade, The High Spirits Cafe has been one of Pune's most popular hangouts, and a regular haunt for the city's youth.
Earlier this week, however, its sheen started coming off when writer Sheena Dabholkar started tweeting about alleged incidents of harassment that she had both seen and been through at the bar over the years.
According to Dabholkar, women have to face everything from sexist comments to physical harassment at the hands of the owners and their friends.
As Dabholkar continued tweeting about her experiences, multiple others weighed in with similar incidents of harassment that they, or someone they knew, had been through there.
They claimed that such behaviour was completely normal at High Spirits, and even egged on by those close to the management.
As her thread started going viral, Dabholkar started tweeting screenshots of her conversations with other women who claimed that they too had been through everything she was talking about.
As more people come forward with their stories over the past couple of days, multiple standup comedians have announced that they will no longer perform at the venue.
Dabholkar also tweeted that many people had been accusing her of lying since they had never seen such harassment there themselves.
"This isn't a vendetta. This is because people who exert power normalise toxic behaviour. And it's far more insidious than the stuff that comes to light occasionally," Dabholkar told BuzzFeed.
In a statement released to BuzzFeed, a High Spirits Cafe spokesperson denied all the allegations, and claimed that someone "with an agenda" was out to tarnish their reputation.
"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the allegations, and completely deny the same. It appears these lies are emanating from a single person, with an agenda, who appears to be motivated by the desire to tarnish the reputation of a bar that has an unblemished record of not having any issues like this arise in its premises in all 13 years of its existence.
Women’s Safety has always been a top priority of ours, and all our efforts have been channelled to ensure that this is not compromised. Right from the point when any customer, man or woman, enters the premises until they leave the outlet, we have tried to secure every aspect of their experience. We have female bouncers for security, female administration staff to ensure assistance and vigilance for female patrons, and even screened rickshaw drivers for female patrons, to make sure women get home safe."
But even as the management refuses to investigate the claims, more women are coming forward with allegations of harassment against them every passing day.
Sahil Rizwan is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Mumbai.
Contact Sahil Rizwan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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