Last Friday, as the sun set and evening approached, some of Bulawayo’s top socialites started buzzing about news announcing the arrival of Red Café, a new pub in the City of Kings.
For those that have seen the opening and closure of various nightspots over the past year, the excitement did not seem warranted. After all, many joints have opened with much pomp and fanfare over the last couple of years, only to fizzle out as customers dry up.
Times are tough and in such a harsh economic climate, grand openings are quickly followed by unceremonious closures. But Red Café, which was trumpeted spiritedly by some of the city’s top socialites, is no ordinary pub.
The new joint, nestled at the site of what used to be the Old Pizzaghetti, corner George Silunduka St and 11th Avenue, signals the return to the club scene of one of Bulawayo’s pleasure managers, Babongile Sikhonjwa.
While most club goers became acquainted with a then youthful Sikhonjwa when he was the manager at Visions Night Club, it was only at Kudu Bar that he really came into his own.
When he ran the infamous joint, the club was a mirror reflection of its hard partying owner. Sikhonjwa single handedly epitomised what Kudu Bar was all about, exhibiting the sort of carefree spirit that seemed to possess everyone that walked through Hartsfield gates.
However, Kudu Bar, for all its notoriety is now dead and the man that was at the helm all those years ago is grown up now. If one expects to find the spirit of the old Kudu Bar at the recently opened Red Café, they will walk out of sleek glass doors extremely disappointed.
Red Café is a different animal altogether.
A spacious pub with a luxurious interior that maintains its red theme throughout, Red Café is paradise for revellers that want an up-market joint that has its finger on the pulse of the latest trends. When it opened its doors last week, it was welcomed by some of the city’s well to do businesspeople and socialites, who showed their respect for the occasion by pulling out some of the finest outfits from their wardrobes.
It was a night for the mature and this was not lost on Sikhonjwa, who returns to the city’s club scene a changed man. If Red Café is made for the mature reveller, the man that runs it should be a prime example of this.
“The level of maturity at this club shows that I can’t do Kudu Bar again. I’ve come a long way,” said Sikhonjwa in an interview with Saturday Leisure this week.
His drama filled stints at Visions and Kudu had prepared him for this next step in his evolution.
“I’m coming with all my experiences. All the fights that I’ve had and all the hating I’ve put all of that on my shoulders,” he said.
Despite the popularity of Kudu Bar, Sikhonjwa said he was not in a hurry to revive the spirit of the long dead joint. However, he would keep the spirit of openness that characterised the old club.
“Kudu Bar cut all the rules. This will be a different joint but we won’t put unnecessary restrictions on revellers. We won’t ask people to take off their hats or anything like that.
“We will have an open door policy. If people feel like something is not in order, they can come and notify me. I’ll always give revellers an ear because they’re the ones that know when something is not right,” he said.
The multi-talented radio personality, MC and comedian said that even with his popularity, he was surprised at how fast news of the joint’s opening spread.
“There was a myth that this joint was never going to open. We bashed that myth on Friday night. What worked in our favour last week was that most of the people that came had already been inside the joint before it officially opened,” he said.
At the core of the joint’s identity will be the music it plays. Instead of feeding revellers an uninterrupted diet of chart topping commercial house tunes, Red Café will try to cater for the sophisticated music listener, particularly those that love house music.
“We want to play discerning music. People are being subjected to too much commercial stuff. You go to the pub you hear one kind of music and then you go to the club and you hear the same kind of music.
“We want people to know they can come to the joint and hear discerning music. Why do we have so much fun when we’re in Johannesburg? Why can’t we have that sort of fun at home? So basically we want to bring that element that you get at those South African clubs and put a Bulawayo flavour to it,” he said.
Sikhonjwa said the joint had recruited DJs from the popular Sunday house music movement, who played delightful deep house cuts, albeit in an environment that some did not feel secure or comfortable in.
“As Ballers League, we never used to play commercial house for more than 30 minutes. You go to a joint in South Africa and you enjoy but, they’re playing songs that you don’t know.
“So the DJs that will play here will know that on Friday and Saturday we play nothing but deep house,” he said.
However, Red Café’s attention will not only be on the music or wise waters but food lovers will also be encouraged to sample some of the joint’s cuisine.
“A full menu will be available as from Monday next week. We want to secure a deal that will see Highlanders and other Bulawayo teams have their press conferences at Red Café. The same goes for journalists, the Bulawayo Press Club should be having its meetings at Red Café,” said Sikhonjwa.