Mombasa has had a vibrant night life and has for a long time been the preferred destination of local and international tourists especially those out to spoil themselves out. Even international celebrities have had a taste of the coastal city’s explosive night.
Just for record, Mombasa has been the preferred gig city for many top acts in Kenya and Tanzania. Most Tanzanian musicians have had their first gigs outside their home country in Mombasa.
But there’s a problem. Several night clubs are facing closure and already some have been padlocked. Night life in the commonly known Mombasa Raha city is changing for good.
FullMoon club, Mamba international disco, Club Havanna and Tembo discotheque have already closed. And there are rumours that more are set to go. This is not good news for die hard party animals who hardly spend a night in between their bed sheets.
Tembo disco, the latest to close down in the first week of June was the preferred party destination for German tourists, few locals and several “mzungu”. The club had a mixed entertainment menu and on occasion hosted local artistes.
Redsan, Nameless, Jua Cali, Nonini, Bongo flava and Congolese acts have all performed at the club. It has also hosted the Smirnoff Experience shows amongst the many gigs. And according to inside sources, Tembo disco night club, previously owned by a German investor called Walter was sold out to business tycoon David Lang’at.
‘Tembo disco night club was bought by a tycoon and everyone’s job ended as the buyer has other business interests which are not club related,” said DJ Frere, a former Manager at the club. There are unconfirmed reports that the night club would be brought down to pave way for apartments. Our calls to Mr Lang’at to verify the claims went unanswered. But it is clear some other business will replace the club as the structure has already been pulled down.
FullMoon, which closed down unceremoniously last year was a state of the art club, air conditioned and well lit. The club, located in the fast growing Shanzu estate, targeted the local and international elite and moneybags. Just three years since opening its doors to the social class, the club ran directly into losses and had management issues. Well placed sources said internal wrangles between the owners of the club led to the closure.
The club was later re-opened this year in South Coast and but closed as soon. Efforts to reach former FullMoon manager, Alex, failed as he was said to be out of the country.
Club Havanna night club had to say goodbye too. The club that was located along the Malindi-Mombasa highway and a few metres from Nakumatt Nyali, is said to have been facing serious financial problems. “Business had taken the valley path and the management had no choice but to shut it down,” said a former employee who sought anonymity.
Nyali beach grounds which hosted the popular “Noons goes to the beach party” were also locked out of social events (read live performances) for over three years. That was after the Nyali Beach Hotel changed hands to Nyali Beach International hotel.
The new management chose to give beach concerts a rain check. However, they only gave Xtreme entertainment and Easy FM the green light last December. The latter organised the “Noons Reloaded beach party” which was well attended with close to ten thousands party goers showing up.
Despite being the best night club in Mombasa island, Mamba International disco, did not escape the wave of closure. The club had been into several management issues and it had to be leased out.
Nairobi-based event organiser Ash of Mash Auto took over the club in 2010 with promises to restore its glory. But six months down the line, his focus changed as his agenda had backfired against him. Ash also had no choice but to cancel his lease and walk out of the island back to Nairobi.
Back to glory
“Mamba was a hard nut to crack. The reputation of the club was long dead and to bring it back to glory was a massive task. It was just not working at all and as a businessman I had to save myself from going down,” he said.
Mamba international disco was however revamped and leased out to a Mr Kameta who turned it to a gospel centre and recreational facility. It now hosts only Christian events and gigs.
According to the club owners, Mombasa residents have a low spending power. Most gigs and concerts are charged between Sh100 and Sh300. Most revellers don’t spend and would rather dance.
Ash says that the returns in any club are not judged by the crowd. “Only in Mombasa, will you find a person in a club drinking one soda whole night. And again, the poverty levels are way too high and the money bags are few and they don’t spend in clubs,” he says.
Don’t be fooled by the numbers too. “You can see 10,000 people in a club only to find that your stock is almost the same and with sales less than Sh100,000,” Ash further notes.
Xtreme entertainment Chief John Chacha agrees with Ash, saying that Mombasa people are not spenders. “The spending culture in Mombasa is way too low and can’t be compared with Nairobi where everyday is a holiday. Most party animals are the one to two beers type, and for a night club owner, this is total loss,” he says.
Mombasa has over 50 night clubs and thousands of bars that are spread up-to the estates. ‘The competition is too tough and there are many pubs that offer the same entertainment menu like night clubs. Besides, their prices are way too low and competing with them is very difficult,” notes Ash.
Event organisers are no longer doing their gigs in clubs as well. Club events was an income earner for night clubs and with event organizers choosing other venues, night clubs are likely to suffer from sales and miss out on the gate percentage. With new grounds like Haller Park, Butterfly pavilion and several beach grounds, the future of club business looks even bleak.
Running a night club is not a boys business. It requires deep pockets. “There are many overheads involved and it’s damn expensive. And if there’s no return in investments continuously, one option remains; close shop,” adds Ash. “Running like Mamba international disco in a month cost me nothing less than Sh1Million.”
But he says that he could not make that kind of money at all. “I invested heavily but profits were not coming at all. For one year, I ran into losses,” he says.
Financial consultant Francis Wangalibo of Three C World further adds that the spending power of the targeted clients has gone down a, thing he says clubs are yet to realise.
“The outgoing spending class is around 3,000 people. And chances are that you wouldn’t find them in night clubs but in pubs. People don’t drink like they used to due to several factors but the club owners have not woken up at all. They do things the same ways and are yet to adopt strategies to improve their sales,” he says. There are clubs that have less than ten people in a night.
DJ Frere, who managed Tembo disco, says that the harsh economy and high living standards have affected the night clubs. “Most party people don’t spend at all and if they do, they have cut their spending power to up-to 50%. Plus Mombasa people only spend on Friday and Saturday, the rest of the days they’re working or have no money for fun,” he reveals.
Francis further adds that club owners and proprietors are in the business they don’t understand. ‘Most investors in night club entertainment business don’t understand the entertainment dynamics. They run them like second hand clothes businesses,” he says.