I’d first heard of this new pub experience of a place that offered adult entertainment in late 2006 from a gang that called itself the “mararaja” which translated to a “sleeps outside” in a Kenyan language. This is language that led for decades in numbers but is slowly losing its crown to fast growing communities in other parts of the country. The bar was called Apple Bees which was confusing to me as I have always known this to be an establishment that Americans, of the US variety, took their kids to have fast food. Kind of like Wimpy was for some of us when we were growing up.
It turned out to be the first pub review I was to do for what was then called “Nairobi Star” before a 2008 rebrand to “The Star” that some refuse to acknowledge. I stumbled upon this pub by chance; I lived in Doonholm at the time and I went to town to look for a bar to review, I was running late on deadline as usual, when the matatu from that part of the city used the back streets. Whilst here I saw the sign for Apple Bees and there were posters promising red hot babes dancing action. I immediately jumped off the matatu and went up the stairs and asked about what they were offering to with the posters. The lady at the front told me to come back later around 8pm when the official action started.
I went and hang out at the Java on Mama Ngina Street and waited for the hour. I was to reappear at the bar at 8pm on the dot and I was forced to pay Kshs50 as entry. I wasn’t happy but I paid and sat down at this seedy little place and I was already regretting that I had gone in and when I asked for a cold Tusker the price was a princely Kshs150. That was a lot of money to pay for a beer in Nairobi then with most places selling beers at between Kshs80-120.
As I was think about what the heck I was doing in a seedy bar in River Road with very high beer prices and considering going home the magic begun. About eight girls in what looks to be those shiny night dress things fanned around the place in strategically where all punters could see them. There was also a little stage with some chairs around it strip club style and some of the ladies went on there. The DJ then started playing some preplanned music and this young women danced.
Eventually clothes started going off. It got so intense that they even started stripping to their undies and then eventually we even go to see their naughty bits. It was a very energetic show that I was watching on that June evening in Nairobi. Seeing as June is winter in our city it was even more surprising as those girls were really earning their supper. Naked girls dancing on tables and a stage in Nairobi. You don’t see that too often.
The show was a most shocking thing for my eyes and the conservative side of me which at the time was quite a big part of my identity as a human being. I mean I have been to strip clubs in other countries; I have watched pornography (for research if my loved ones are reading this). But there is something very mind frying about watching people you are likely to lust after shaking their naughty bits before your very own eyes. I didn’t have a lot of money, a big part of my life then, but I cleared my wallet on booze until I was left with only fare back to my Doonholm. I had to hustle something the next day to get to town to hand in my column.
When I got to a computer in town the next day I did my best to describe what I had seen. In my mind, I couldn’t tell the world that I was at a strip club for two reasons. One is the personal ego; I didn’t want folks to know that I went to such seedy places (every Nairobian thinks that they are very classy like that). The other is that I did nor for the life of me imagine a Kenyan newspaper publishing an experience at a strip club in nothing less than a scandalous, “we need to shut this place down for its debauchery” kind of a manner. Therefore in my review I talked about everything else apart from the dancing girls. The décor (dodgy), the washrooms (not clean), service (decent), price of beer (high). The strippers I shelved under, “there were some girls who were dancing so much that their clothes fell off which is something if you consider that we were in freezing June.”
Guess what? The readers got my drift. In the next few weeks the place became an urban legend Nairobi as everyone also wanted to see these girls. I got used to getting calls from friends on Friday and Saturday night that went something like this;
Friend: Jamo izhow?
Me: I’m sawa [redacted]
Friend: Skiza bana, where is this Apple Bees of yours? I’m here at Luthuli and I can’t see it.
Me: “Gives directions.”
Friend: Are you there?
Me: Uh Yeah. You’ll find me in VIP.
P.s. The pub is now closed for renovations that will open at a yet to be announced date. Don’t call me on Friday night. Even you [redacted].
P.P.S. I was once crossing Kenyatta Avenue headed to 680 hotel when the crazy stripper with the sausages and the Tusker insertions waved at me from her Toyota Rav 4. Those girls might have been making some mad cash. She has since passed on.
P.P.P.S Since then I have submitted over 400 hundred bar reviews to the same publication. But this was my first and I will always remember it fondly.