Taking back the night – Kampala style!

Revelers at a night-out

Kampala, Uganda | By Savio Kyambadde | Kampala’s nightlife took a big hit after 7/11. But bars and clubs are slowly filling up as more people become comfortable with the security measures in place.

It had been a month since any of us had been for a real night out on the town. It was a Saturday night and just more than of one month after the tragic July 11 bomb blasts that claimed lives of revellers at Ethiopian Village and Kyadondo Rugby club.

Between the three of us, we had all witnessed the empty bar stools and dance floors following the bombings. And this night we thought we would be alone in the bars, left to our own devices to consider the past week and how the city has changed. But we are proud and excited to report that Kampala’s nightlife is back!

We began the night at Steak Out for its famous UTAKE Night. There was a light crowd compared to the usual shoulder rubbing environment. The music blared on but with a few young men taking on the floor.

However, Denis Mugambi the Night Manager said the place was steadily picking after the bomb attacks adding that the clients they get are their loyal ones who have continued going there.

“Ugandans do not want to be confined. They are coming back slowly,” said Steak Out’s Mugambi.

Commenting on the security at the place, Mugambi told the Kampala Dispatch team that they were more vigilant with “sniffer dog” services added to their physical searching of all clients going into the premises.

Asked whether the bar is affected by the recent announcement by Kampala Mayor Nasser Ssebagala that all bars should close by 10pm Mugambi denied receiving any communication to that effect.

“We have not received any communication to the effect. We have fewer customers tonight because the Universities are on recess and our major customers are students. We hope things will be better when they return,” he said.

A brief chat with the customers at the venue indicated that they were more confident being at the place though vigilant on movement and behaviour of other revellers.

One customer who preferred to give one name, Sharon, an administrative assistant with an undisclosed company said she was happy going out again though she was still nervous.

“I have been coming here for some time and I am confident that I am safe,” she said.

Asked whether she was not inconvenienced by the strict checking process at the entrance she said that she was not bothered because there was a lady to check the ladies at the entrance while the men were being checked by two men.

Another customer who offered one name Alfred, a Makerere University student, said he was also confident in the place due to the checking system at the venue’s entrance adding that he was not bothered by being checked before entering.

“I don’t see any problem with being checked. Why would one resist unless you have sinister motives?” asked Alfred.

At another bar in the centre of the city known for its popularity among “ladies of the night”. The crowd seemed bigger than the previous places visited.

The crowd grew bigger towards midnight with the main bar filled by few male customers sipping drinks. But there was a bevy of ladies looking around for men to chat up.

Three of ladies the Kampala Dispatch chatted with expressed fear of being in places with laxity in security adding that they were comfortable at this spot because they know the place and trust the security guards.

“Hi, how is the night? Can I join you? You look good baby. I am Judith,” said the first lady to approach our table. She did not seem shy about chatting with strange men.

During the interaction, the ladies expressed caution and acknowledged being more vigilant after the attacks adding that they were selective of which men to approach.

“You look mean, angry, and cold. Your response is similar to that of terrorists,” teased the third night lady identified as Julie as she joined our table. “I like you, where do you come from,” she went on to ask one of us.

Despite minding their night life and business, these ladies enjoyed their drinks with ease while looking around for more promising clients. We bought them some beers and they seemed content with the fact that we were not looking for any business.

Next stop on the night train was Cayanne, Kampala’s hottest new hot spot. But after wading through the throngs of beautiful women and well-dressed young men we did not make it inside. One member of our party felt compelled to wear shorts for a night out on the town. Shorts are a no no at Cayenne so off we went. Mr. Shorts bought the next round.

Though life in still cold in some places we passed, Kisementi was rockin. It was full house at both Fat Boys and Iguana. Vehicles were packed on both sides of the streets with bigger 4×4 packed on the pavements.

There were queues at both places as the security personnel checked with metal detectors, physical body searches of the customers and going through all pockets and bags.

Patrick Sembajjwe, a young accountant found hanging out at Fat Boys, said he has ceased going to bars where there is no security check. “I am mindful of where I go these days after the Lugogo incident. I also avoid places that have no crowd control measure especially when it comes to admission of clients,” Sembajjwe explained.

The Dispatch team is pleased to report that the night is back in Kampala. The security measures will hopefully stay in place and we can all continue to enjoy a beer, a dance and each other’s company any night of the week.