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Cry not as lights dim on 'Bottoms Up' club in Kisumu

By Harold Odhiambo | January 15th 2021 at 13:00:00 GMT +0300

A picture of a closed Bottom Up club in Kisumu after 43 years in service. [Harold Odhiambo, Standard]

After 43 years of operation, curtains have finally fallen on Octopus Club, the oldest entertainment facility in Kisumu’s red light district.

In its heydays, the club popularly known as Bottoms Up was the face of nightlife in the lakeside city.

Established in 1978 by three brothers, the doors to Octopus had only been closed once when the country’s first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta passed on.

This was before twilight girls took over the place and heralded a new era for a club whose foundations were grounded on offering a buzzing disco experience in a bid to bring decency to the city’s night scene.

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It was frequented by who is who in the region. Patrons spent a fortune to enjoy the unrivalled entertainment it offered as international artists and Congolese bands pitched tent to entertain locals.

Back then, a visit to Kisumu would be incomplete without stopping at Bottoms Up club and it was a like a paradise for those who love steamy and sordid things.

Top government officials, diplomats, wealthy businessmen, sportsmen and celebrities, who happened to be in the lakeside city, would not leave without sampling a taste of nightlife at the Octopus Club.

The twilight girls readily offered company, comfort and sweet endings to boot to its wealthy and hungry men who thronged the joint be it for booze or entertainment.

The club had one of the best sound systems in Nyanza and was home of some of the region’s top DJs. The design was one of the most attractive architecture that lured customers of all kind.

And to spice up its ambience, the club installed disco dim lights, the first in the region, which attracted even more customers. It was said, sweet things happen in darkness and it was here that high class and powerful State officials would hide from paparazzi.

The place had an array of beauties that one would sample and it was turned into a one-stop shop for those interested in girls and enjoying the company of the twilight girls.

It was akin to Nairobi’s Sabina Joy as well as other famous red light district zones and “sex” was readily available for dozens of men who would throng it to quench their thirst.

But then competition and Covid-19 crept in.

So when The Nairobian visited the club last week, one of the three brothers, who has been running the enterprise William Roman McTough was inspecting as workers moved equipment off the premise.

At the entrance, a large sign indicating the fall of the former giant is evident for everyone to see. It is a call for a new tenant to rent the premise and start a new business.

“This is the first time in 43 years that we have closed the doors of Octopus. Business has been bad in the last few months and it is not possible to continue running it,” says McTough.

For a businessman, who endured a lot during 2007/08 post-election violence, which almost brought the club to its knees, the pain of the collapse of the club is clearly written on his face.?

Not even the success of his other enterprise “Scottish Tartan Hotel”, which borders Bottoms Up club gives him joy as he laments the tough economic times brought by the Covid-19 restrictions has hit them hard.

McTough flashes a weak smile as he recounts the good times when the club was the real deal in Kisumu and would attract several people and international events.

So lucrative was the business that it gave him the foundation to start another famous club in Ahero town dubbed “The bank” as well as a security firm.

“I added the name Bottoms Up because it signifies the act of tossing bottles and turning the bottle up to take a sip,” he says.

“We had several international games and contests hosted here included dart and pool competitions as well as beauty pageantry,” he adds.

The proprietor, however, downplays role played by twilight girls, who took over the premises and would stand next to the club waiting for clients.

“We tried to chase the girls away but at times it was not easy because they would be meeting their clients here,” he says.

With pinch on regret, McTough recounts how he tried to keep the club afloat but everything went against his efforts.

However, the fall of the club had been coming as the emergence of several clubs began to threaten the traditional pubs that had ruled the city’s nightlife.

New nightclubs introduced new innovations, to lure customers including hosting live-bands as well as introducing new flair to nightlife.

The new generation also played part in the fall of Octopus. The youth prefer the western lifestyle opted for modern joints, which have mimicked European pubs and music. And with these developments, twilight girls moved their services to the new entrants, leaving Octopus exposed to the core.

“We were doing very well and used to charge entrance fees. However, opening up of new bars and night clubs, as well as the creation of lounges in hotels, affected our business,” says McTough.

As usual, the fall of a giant comes with a thud and adjacent businesses, which hinged on Octopus opulence are decrying the closure.

Joshua Ochieng, a boda boda operator, says he would make a lot of money each night when ferrying revellers and the hookers after a night of music and booze.


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