After Hours Referees: How to (Nicely) Party in Cape Town

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We After Hours Athletes may think that we’re the heroes in the stories of our nights out, but it’s our referees – the bartenders, bouncers, cabbies and roadies – who make it all possible. Previously in our AHA Referees series, we hit up the bartenders of Brooklyn for some words of wisdom on engaging the opposite sex. Next up: a wild night in Cape Town, where we asked referees at every phase of the evening for advice on how to play nice and avoid personal fouls.

From the barmen pouring us a pre-game pint to the taxi driver shuttling our teammates home, our referees have the power to make or break an evening. Best to stay on their good side, right? That’s why we hit the streets of Cape Town for some first-hand recon on keeping our games legit.

Our first stop was Tjing-Tjing Rooftop Bar, the converted attic of a 100 year-old building and a perfect place for a pre-party stretch. It’s hip, but not annoyingly so, the cocktails go down like, well, cocktails, the music is carefully chosen, and the clientele are easy on the eyes. After warming up with a drink, we sought out some ground rules of AHA-referee engagement from the Early Innings Bartender. David has bartended at Tjing-Tjing since it opened a year ago and wasn’t shy at all on dropping some knowledge on us.

“When people get drunk they start spitting and shouting when they order, and they need to stop that,” David answered. “That, and trying to get your attention by whistling or clicking their fingers.” He took another order and poured a pint. “Oh, and girls, flirting isn’t going to get you a drink quicker. Men keep saying we serve women first. We don’t. Actually, if the girl is hot we’ll probably serve the guy first to get him out the way.”

Useful intel indeed. We left Tjing-Tjing just as things were heating up and headed down the road to Zula Bar, a hot live music venue on Cape Town’s biggest party avenue, Long Street. There, we went in pursuit of the biggest and baddest referee of them all – the Primetime Bouncer. Gatekeeper to our evenings and keeper of the peace, no one wants to be on the bad side of the big dude at the door.

Jerome, head of security at Zula Bar wasn’t hard to find. He’s the big, burly, arms-crossed- against-the-chest kinda guy; if he had any advice, we were all ears.

“People must know, this is not your momma’s house,” Jerome told us. “There are rules. You can’t just go jumping on bars and using toilet seats as necklaces.”

Wait, toilet seats as what?!

Recently, Jerome had to kick an especially creative patron out after he decided it would be a good idea to rip off a toilet seat and wear it around his neck. We avoided using bathroom furnishings as festive attire and let Jerome go back on patrol. After checking out the band, the Durban-based Fire Through the Window, it was time for some sustenance.

Retreating from the buzz of Long Street we crossed over to the emerging cool of Bree Street, where we set our sights on the new burger joint Clarke’s and our minds on the knowledge of the Late-Night Waitress. Part ref, part medic, this referee holds the key to soothing our hunger.

“Don’t get sick,” our waitress Bianca offered as a simple bit of advice. “When you use the toilet; use the toilet. Don’t whistle for attention. And tip, obviously,” Another waitress slid past balancing a plate of burgers and chipped in, “And keep it in your pants.”

Well put. We considered their advice over a plate of amazing burgers, which restored our energy for the final push of the evening: the cab ride home. Out in front of Clarke’s, we hailed a black London cab from Rikki’s Taxis and tried to wrangle one last pearl of wisdom from the evening, turning to our Last-Call Transporter to give it to us straight.

“You can do what you like, you just need to give me your addresses clearly,” our driver Ernie told us. “Just leave the cab clean, pay the fare, and I’ll get you home.” He seemed like a particularly thoughtful referee, so we asked him what personal foul really got under his collar. According to Ernie, the worst trick someone pulled at this point in the evening was opening the door mid-fare and leaving without paying. It’s a rare but boneheaded offense indeed, suitable for suspension for future late-night endeavours.

We stumbled out of the cab, waved goodbye to Ernie and considered all we had learned throughout the night, which really boils down to the following: Have fun, but don’t be too much of an idiot.

Of course, everyone’s pursuit of referee knowledge brings different answers. What’s the last good piece of advice you learned from your local referees?  

Photos courtesy of Genevieve Akal.