By Stephen Chadenga
“When I visited Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo or any other city and met people who enjoy nightlife and once travelled to Gweru, their first question was how Uptown Nightclub was performing and disclosure on their (Gweru outsiders) unfailing commitment to pass through the club,” recalled Takunda Mlambo.
This is how one of the Midlands capital’s then popular entertainment joints was regarded by revellers across the country.
As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the world and Zimbabwe recorded its first case last year, government introduced strict lockdown measures.
Businesses deemed not offering essential services were prohibited from operating and in the leisure sector, bars and nightclubs were not spared.
In fact as the coronavirus restriction measures were relaxed in successive months, with other sectors given the nod to operate under set relaxed conditions nightclubs were totally out of the picture.
It was only last month that government gave the greenlight for night spots to operate albeit under Level two lockdown measures.
As nightlife began roaring a few weeks ago, revellers such as Mlambo had memories of their longing for services rendered at the once thrilling Uptown evoked.
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“When nightclubs were allowed to open, myself and friends started sharing memories of the club,” Mlambo told Standard Style.
“We remembered our favourite turn table disc jockeys, the popular ladies and gents night, prize winning games and general spine chilling entertainment Uptown provided.”
Uptown management however announced late last year that they were permanently closing the club to pave way for shopping space and offices.
A visit by this publication to the place this week painted a grim picture of what the structure used to offer.
A walk through the entrance of the once bustling night joint was met with small scale traders offering typing, printing and other minor information technology services.
Doors to the main night club and auditorium where raunchy dancers such as Beverly Sibanda, aka Bev and Zoey Sifelani used to perform were locked with structures inside razed to the ground to give way for the construction of more trading space.
Ironically, there was still a billboard at the top structure of the entertainment hole reading, “shopping and office space still available.”
Since its opening to the business public, few space has been occupied at the first and second floors of the building.
“It’s like the place is failing to attract what it was intended for when it changed operations,” a former favourite of the Nightclub, who only identified herself as Memory said.
“This was a place of entertainment and would remain just that. We used to enjoy ladies and gents nights here and l am yet to see any other place in town that can offer such world class services.”
Memory said although there were a new nightclubs in town thronged by merrymakers, the services offered there were “rather disjointed”.
“The new clubs are thronged by mainly students from local colleges who are usually rowdy and services offered lack cohesion. They lack the mature aura Uptown offered,” she said.
But a former Midlands State University student disagreed, saying times were changing and that by the time Uptown closed it had lost direction in giving “decent night life entertainment”.
“I used to go there when l was a student, the place had become a haven of sex workers, gamblers and pickpockets,” said the ex-student who requested anonymity.
“The new clubs are well designed for a new crop of fun loving people including students, professional workers and business people.”
After it was closed Gweru businessman and former politician, Timothy Mkahlera downplayed economic challenges posed by Covid-19 as the reason for the closure.
“I realised that a private hospital had just been set a few metres opposite Uptown, a church also across on the other side. It was time to change given the surrounding changing environment,” he said then.
Fanatics of the former Nightclub, however, told Standard Style that people were bound to have “diverse opinions”, but that Uptown “would remain the best night joint the Midlands capital ever had”.