Afropolitan authenticite at Joburg Bar

Just what you'd expect from a real Johannesburg tavern: a place full of Congolese! La jouissance est ici

Lots of places in Cape Town try to give off an African vibe, but they just don’t have it. They’re in the Mother City, but they lack that…je ne sais quoi…that tells you you’re also in the Mother Land too. Yet sometimes a funky little hole in the wall turns out to be the hippest, most happening African nightspot around. Why? Because all it cares about is making sure that everyone has a great time! Nothing more.

The Joburg Bar on upper Long Street pulses with raw vitality. Here, everything is reduced to its simplest terms: beer is beer, chicks are chicks, dudes are dudes, and dancing to a killer groove is….well, about as good as life can get. And you’re free to come as you are – without pretence, without apology – because from the moment you step inside, you’re welcome. You belong.

The African Nocturne
The Joburg Bar’s been around for 10 years. It’s seen all kinds of changes. One year it’s popular with backpackers, the next with local riff-raff, the next with yuppies, the next with Congolese car guards. But it continues to thrive because it doesn’t try to woo any particular crowd. It caters to everyone. People find within it what they want. These days, young Congolese like to hang out there, but so too do European travelers, backpackers, and locals. Open from noon–4am daily, it attracts plenty of folks.

It may sound ironic, but this scene is about as “African” as it gets. For over the last decade, francophone Africans have remade South African cities. They’ve changed our understanding of the continent, expanding it beyond our borders. And this metropolis – Cape Town, Kaapstad – will soon need another moniker, La Ville du Cap!

Of course, if you’re not local, it’s easy to mistake places that put tribal masks on the wall as being “African.” But if you simply go where Africans go, you learn how African life is being made in the 21st century. If you want to participate in its creation yourself, the Joburg Bar’s a good place to start.

See Bart Simpson naked
OK, so what’s it like? Really, it’s just a ramshackle collection of big rooms and some little nooks and crannies. There’s a main bar area with booths and chairs, plus a DJ box and a dancing platform. There’s a secondary dancefloor (called “Pretoria”) and an eating area in the back for refueling.

The walls are littered with random kitsch pop art. A naked Bart Simpson stands next to the bathroom door sporting a happy boner. An architectural model of central Johannesburg hangs upside down from the middle of the ceiling, covered in disco ball mirrors. And a Warhol-esque portrait near the door has been rendered with beer caps and prescription pills. (Ah, erections and drugs: if only all art could be like this.)

Every night they line up a trio of DJs to carry the festivities until the wee hours. They kick it off with a DJ from 10–midnight, then another from 12–2am, then another from 2–4am. They play hip-hop, R&B and House. But the DJs aren’t teasers; they’re pleasers. They totally commit to the groove. One guy, DJ Toussaint, lays down tracks wearing his aviator sunglasses, totally focused on bringin’ it. Everybody’s head nods and body moves when he’s in control.

Great service – great vibe
Despite the modest nature of the club, it’s run by pros. The bartenders serve up drinks with efficiency and a smile. The doormen keep the peace without even moving a muscle. And the kitchen staff put together tasty snacks quick-quick. If you pop in during the day, you’ll find a laid-back setting to while away the hours, but the action really picks up after 10pm.

The Joburg Bar delivers what everyone wants: a place where you can be yourself. In the process, it allows you to meet new and interesting people, some from all across this continent. And with them, you do what comes naturally: you drink, you dance, you chat, you chill. That’s Africa.

Joburg Bar
218 Long Street
Monday–Saturday 12noon–4am / Sunday 6pm–4am

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