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VERTIGO, Playground, Rhodes House, Deviate, Plush. Cape Town’s social history is a litany of night-clubs that were the spot in their day, before the next hip and happening place beckoned with cheap shooters and free entry before 10pm.
Opening next week will be another new space, a retro-alternative club courtesy of the guys behind Decodance.
Almost 15 months of construc- tion have restored the space that used to be Arties Underground on Riebeeck Street, and the sign went up on Monday night, beckoning you to “take a walk Underworld”. Or, at least, down the stairs into the basement.
This club has gone for a post- industrial look with a dedicated whisky bar, a cigar lounge, a no-smoking bar and yay, full-on air conditioning. And, that’s not even talking about the customised JBL sound system that’s been installed.
Veteran nightclub owner, developer and manager Shayne Leith opened the first Decodance at the Old Biscuit Mill in Salt River, and after four years moved to a bigger venue in Sea Point, taking over what used to be Charlie Parker’s to establish a thriving commercial club.
Now he’s turned his eyes towards town for a smaller space, albeit with a more progressive rock bent.
The venue at 34 Riebeeck Street has a bit of a seedy reputation, but Leith thinks the area’s regeneration and development puts him in a good position.
Initially he was taken in by the basement walls, which still reflect the original structure that was erected in the late 1700s, which had been rebuilt in the late 1800s and eventually became a branch of Standard Bank.
The basement became Artie’s Underground in the early 1990s, and it was where you could catch metal acts like VOD and Ravenwolf.
At one point there was a club called Nightmare on the first floor and Playground started in this basement before moving up the road.
Leith proudly calls the chequered black-and-white dance floor one of his trademarks and is already rubbing his hands with glee as he recounts all the records he will be bringing into the club to supplement club manager Jay Thomas’s collection.
These guys have an old-school taste in music and want to con- centrate on Sixties to Nineties rock and won’t be averse to a request for something more obscure, as long as it’s rock.
“I’m also a rock head from Detroit so my passion lies in the fact that this is going to be the kind of bar I want to hang out in,” said Thomas.
That and the fact that they want the space to be more of a hang-out than a dance club.
They’ll start off opening on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8pm to 2am, to build up a following. They want people to dress up and any live music shows they host will be one-off occasions to showcase established artists.
They want to work their way up to opening at 4pm to the business crowd who want to avoid the home-bound traffic. They’ve carried forward the liquor licence from the Biscuit Mill establishment and the high-end whisky bar will aim at the day trade from businesspeople in the surrounding area.
“The whisky goes hand in hand with rock and roll, that’s the crowd we’re looking for, the ones who used to be the mohawk-wearing rockers who now hide their tattoos underneath the business suits,” said Thomas.
Cape Town’s clubs mostly aim at the 18 to 35-year-old market, though the wily teens still sneak in to spend their pocket money. This is not the market Leith will be targeting at Underworld, which will try to enforce a strict no under-22 age restriction.
“Being old-school, I know there are a lot of baby boomers whose kids are off their hands and they’re like me, we’re still rock and rollers. So, I’ve set my genre in retro music.
“That crowd, their kids are 15 and up and they want to go out and they have nowhere to go. Everywhere else is filled with teeny boppers and doef doef,” said Leith.
• Underworld opens on Friday and Saturday. There is free entry to a limited guest list before 10pm. SMS your name and guests’ names to 076 581 7479. See www.decounderworld.co.za for further details or join the Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates.