• Quest for affordable beer led my clique to exclusive hangout doing roaring business
I honestly don't know if it was the same for everyone or if it was just me and the specific set of circumstances I found myself in at the time, but, early to mid-1990s, Nairobi was a magical place in very many ways.
The 1980s had been particularly tough times. We’d had a recession, the prices for coffee and tea in world markets had more or less crashed, there were record-breaking droughts, famines and food shortages.
There was also the picture of us being forced to go hat in hand to the World Bank for Structural Adjustment loans, which brought Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPS) and misery, especially for the civil service and the acceleration in dictatorship and oppression by Kanu and Moi.
All these issues following on the heels of the euphoria of Independence in the 1960s and the economic growth of the 1970s, aided in no small way by frost killing Brazil’s harvest and Idi Amin’s erratic ways with the Ugandan economy, which led to the coffee smuggling boom, made the 1980s seem even worse.
Then suddenly with the 1990s, change was in the air, a lot of it was politically driven by the fall of the Berlin Wall in Europe, the fall of the Soviet Union and the dawn of the unipolar world, with the US as the world’s cop and enforcer.
We experienced this with the agitation for and the eventual coming of multiparty politics, which brought a loosening of the oppressive noose around the nation’s collective neck.
People could begin to believe that the end of the road for Kanu and President Moi’s single-party dictatorship was in sight.
Socially, too, there were changes.
Some of the biggest changes included the opening up of a second TV station, KTN, which would be followed some years later by the freeing of the radio airwaves to allow private radio stations.
Around this time, I remember being witness to what seemed to me to be a new social phenomenon, out and proud sugar mummies with their University of Nairobi male student conquests.
For years, married men had been known to frequent the women’s halls of residence at the university, and everyone knew of the notorious Box, and now it seemed the women had decided that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander.
But first, a little background. In my broad strokes history above, I forgot to mention that the pain of the SAPS reached its zenith at the start of the 1990s and was felt in, among other ways, the relaxation of price controls of various daily use items, including beer.
Because of the relaxing and then abolition of price controls on beer, my colleagues and I found that we could not always afford our after-work beers at our usual establishments and, sometimes, especially when there were still about two weeks to payday, we needed to go to less salubrious places for our beer.
That was when one of the gang discovered this little hole in the wall set above a shop that stocked Pfaff sewing machines from Germany. This was on Moktar Daddah Street next to the former Sombrero night club.
The bar was accessible through a back door in an alley in which would often be parked smart Mercedes, BMW and Volvo cars.
Small and cramped as it was, the bar sold beer cheaper than our usual haunts, so we began frequenting it.
After our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting of the joint, we realised that the main customers appeared to be women of a certain age and social status, with their toy boys from the nearby Nairobi University campus.
Actually, it was all very discreet. And as is the custom with the Nevada desert city famed for its gambling dens, what you saw in Pfaff remained in Pfaff.
The bar at Pfaff was known by very few people, but it did a roaring trade. I wonder if any of the people reading this might be some of the young gigolos who frequented pfaff with their sugar mummies?