A story of two Cubas: Bar/Lounges battle it out in a tough Johannesburg market


A story of two Cubas is unfolding in Midrand, a suburban settlement between Johannesburg and Pretoria, to add spice into an already tight shopping centres fight. But it could also be seen as part of the unfolding fabulous story of a ‘trillion dollar’ corridor that’s connecting the two cities.

A Cubana bar/lounge has just popped up at the Carlswald Lifestyle Shopping Centre which is anchored by a mega Spar. If the experiences of the Cubana in Ceder Square Centre in Fourways and others across the country are anything to go by, Carlswald is about to be turned into an after hours hub for ‘slay queens and kings’.

On the opposite end, across New Road, a Cuba Lounge is maturing at San Ridge Square which is anchored by a Pick n’ Pay. Both establishments seek to leverage the seductive revolutionary image of Cuba that has been exploited by youthful fashionistas across the globe.

The Cuba Lounge premises in Midrand

Cubana projects itself as South Africa’s only authentic Latino Social Caffe and eatery which provides the service of a cocktail bar and cigar lounge with a unique flavoursome cuisine.”

For its part, Cuba Lounge invites patrons to “join the revolution and indulge in the good life.” It promises an experience that’s “an aphrodisiac for the senses” as “tempting and provocative, bold and courageous, passionate and sultry” as “the Treasure Island of Cuba is.”

From a distance the setting looks like is is shaping into a fierce fight for market share but a closer look reveals nuances which might suggest otherwise. The two Cubas seem to be positioned for different markets, with Cubana pinpointed towards the upper end and Cuba Lounge positioned for the middle. There is perhaps space for coexistence of the two Cubas as there has been space for the two shopping centres in this Midrand vicinity.

A Durban originated concept, Cuba Lounge is positioned more like a restaurant by day and a dance club by night if our visit to the place is anything to go by. This view finds support in Cuba Lounge’s self-definition which is found in its website. “By day the mood is relaxed and tasteful with airy outdoor seating or comfortable indoor seating, mouth-watering meals …

“By night, we turn up the heat and the space is transformed into a pulsating, spirited social hub complete with lavish cocktails, exotic hookahs and beautiful people…”

There might be implications for other establishment like the San Ridge Square New Café and the Midrand chapter of Mash Bar which is located inside the Pick n Pay anchored Midway Mews.

It could be that this apparent ‘Cuba face-off’ comes as a proxy for the broader fierce battle for the shopping centre market share. It’s been reported that South Africa’s urban retail centre market has been flooded by new developments in recent years and may be now over-traded. The Midrand/Centurion area is no exception.

The location of the two centres, Carlswald Lifestyle Shopping Centre and San Ridge Square is a case in point even though there is a case of coexistence to be made.

The Spar anchored Calswald features the following tenants, Bacinis Pizzeria, @Home, Babyboom, Tonga Optica, Pressed in time, Cell C, Healthwors Medical Centre, Dischem, Wimpy, Debra Lee Botique, Mugg & Bean, Redken Salon, Gossip Fashion and Accessories, TN Tobacco, Mobizone, Placecol, Tops, FNB, Capitec, Nedbank, Sheetstreet, 3a1, Piatto, Dross and Virgin Active.

Whereas Pick n Pay anchored San Ridge Square features News Café, Roman Pizza, The Raj, Thai Express, Village n Chips, Dial a Bed, Bidbest Bank, Obriani, Etolls, Fix Cell, Ink 4 Less, Hair and Beauty Salon, Russel and Chief Clothing, Absa, Seymor Optometrist, Midridge Laundry, Vet Deli, Standard Bank, Woolworths Food, Ocean Basket, Cuba Lounge, Clicks, Obriani 2, Athanias Clothing, Postnet, Crazy Store, Pick n Pay Clothing and Empire Burgers.

One needs to do a closer analysis based on this tenant profiles to settle this debate. Our 2018 Shopping Centre Census under way might settle it.

What’s your take?

This article was lifted from SATopShops


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