If you live in Cape Town and are of a certain hue then perhaps this scenario will be familiar to you: you feel thirsty and make your way down to a bar that your friend recommended. Because the vibe was cool, because it has a tree growing in the middle, because hot models hang out there. So you splash on some eau de confidence and hit the streets running.
This is all going along swimmingly until you get to the door of this swanky bar. There will be bouncer or a manager or a hostess. All of who will tell you the same variation of one of two stories: sorry we are having a private function. Or sorry we are only letting people in who are on the guest list. At which point you will make the following observations. Firstly that all the pale skinned natives are cruising past you without any hindrance. And that the “guest list” is just a bar stock count sheet on a clipboard.
If any of this sounds vaguely familiar then you have been to Asoka and been a victim of their very –pre 1994 door policy. And no Ashton Kutcher is not going to jump out and say you have been punked. This is a reality that has been experienced by many Cape Town residents and visitors to the city. If it makes you feel better you are in very illustrious company: luminaries such as Khaya Dlanga, social commentator and renowned blogger, the legendary Vinny da Vinci , a house DJ as well as Beatmaker, a music producer have also been bounced from there.
This post was inspired by @TOMolefe who tweeted about being on the receiving end of Asoka’s door policy on Friday night. This tweet led to a chorus of replies from people who had experienced similar treatment.
A few month ago the writer of this story tried to report an incident like this to Paul, the owner of Asoka. We were very specific about the time place, dates, other people being let in ahead of us etc. At no point did we accuse them of racism: we merely detailed the events that occurred and asked for an explanation.
First the owner claims the manager on duty that night was not available and he would reply as soon as he had his side of the story. Days passed. After claiming that the said manager was off ,then watching the soccer the owner offered to respond on behalf of Asoka after doing an investigation of our incident.
The owner tried to shrug this off as a misunderstanding on our part. He claimed that they were very busy that night and as a result they weren’t letting anyone in. He then alleged that this was not about racial profiling because the “white people” (his speech marks, not mine) had been there the night before and spent a lot of money and so they “had” to let them in. He said he hoped we understood and that he looked forward to seeing us again. No apology was offered or overtures made to erase the bitter taste left in our mouths.
Several things struck me as peculiar in that scenario. because for somebody to identify a group of unnamed undesdcribed strangers 9 days later and correctly identify them as the big ballers from 10 nights before(on a night he wasn’t at the bar) is something that beggars belief. If Paul was adamant about sticking to that story then the corollary should have been that he acknowledges we too were regular customers and spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small island every time we were at his fine establishment.
I use the word were deliberately: I am voting with my wallet and have vowed to never darken the doors of Asoka again! I refuse to support people who treat me in a disrespectful manner and then insult my intelligence with flimsy excuses when confronted with their disgusting behaviour. Quite frankly I am puzzled by the numerous black people who whine about this treatment then keep returning to the same place for more.
The solution is simple: Don’t go back there and tell everyone you know about what really happens there. There are plenty of great bars in Cape Town, choose one that treats you with the decency and respect you deserve.
Yolisa Nehanda is an aspirant lady of leisure who spends her time exploring the finest Cape Town restaurants, clubs, and venues. When she is not doing this for herself, she is organising packages for her clients as she runs a boutique concierge services and lifestyle assistance company. You can contact her here