It was on January 26, 2013 that Yougovia Club and Lounge came to the Addis Abeba night club scene after much preparation. The first branch located in Hawassa, 273Km from the capital, opened 13 years ago, and is still going strong.
The success and the popularity gained there, made it possible to open a second branch in the basement of Sheger Building on Namibia Street near Bole Medhanealem.
The owner, Birhan Tedla, named the club “Yougovia” from a story his brother-in-law told him, of how when the Italians left Mehal Meda in Amhara Region, they said yougovia, we leave you even as we love you.
Historical accuracy aside, Birhan fell in love with the word and made it the name for his first night club in Hawassa.
Birhan has other businesses including Oasis International Hotel, a 40 bedroom three-star hotel, which he established with a capital of 30 million Br along Lake Hawassa, and Texas Music Store, located in the same town.
Yougovia occupies the sprawling 952sqm basement of Sheger Building, making it one of the biggest clubs in the city, hosting 700 to 1,000 people at a time, according to Birhan. He says he spent four million Birr in two months on maintenance, design and furnishing. Birhan is paying a 60,000 Br monthly rent for the place, which he intends to rent for various events such as weddings and birthday parties.
On February 14, the most romantic day of the year, the tables were decorated with triangular candles and three bars of chocolate on a plate. The candles were lit as guests were ushered to their seats by the manger of the club.
Doors opened at 9pm and couples celebrating Valentine’s Day were already lined up at the door. Most of the ladies, dressed in red, held red roses in one hand whilst holding their partner’s hand with the other. The men, too, appeared dapper in their suits.
Yet, one cannot help but notice those wearing casual clothes in stark contrast to the dressed up crowd.
“Since the club is new, we are not stringent on dress codes right now,” said Birhan. “But in the near future, we will not allow casual wear like jeans and sneakers.”
Upon walking into the club the 30m long Spanish bar on the left corner catches one’s eyes. The array of liquor bottles reflect the LED lights that illuminate the dance floor and invite a lingering look from club-goers.
Forty minutes after opening almost all the seats were occupied and the crowd was entertained by Tsehaye Yohannes, Ras Band and two up and coming singers from Hawassa, Mamila and Kichini.
“It is a great chance for me to get such a warm reception from the fans and to be able to perform live with a full band in a club after so long,” said Tsehaye, while rehearsing for the show. “Allowing a full band to play live music in a club is a great way to bring the lost glory of Ethiopian music back on track.”
From the VIP room next to the spacious stage one can get a complete view of the artists on stage from a glass window. The room is spacious with black and white leather couches, ready to serve those who come in groups. To maintain exclusivity, VIP customers are charged 20pc to 30pc more for all services and they must order bottles; those looking for shots or a couple of bottles of beer are relegated to the main bar.
“The VIP section makes the club special.” said DJ Wish, who was spinning on Valentine’s Day.
Demera Band, formed by Birhan, perform live with different artists from 11 pm up to 2am every night, except for Thursdays, when Ras Band takes over with Tsehaye Yohannes and other singers.
The remaining hours are filled with the DJ’s that spin different types of music whose sound is blasted from the American made EB 2,000 watt and JBL 4,000 watt speakers.
Price wise, beer and soft drinks both cost 42.16 Br before VAT. Single shots of Red Label and Gordon Gin cost 57 Br, whilst Chivas and Black Label cost 72 Br each. Bottles of Black Label, Courvoisier and Blue Label are sold for 7,000 Br, 9,000 Br and 12,000 Br, respectively. Cocktail drinks such as Long Island Ice Tea is sold for 132 Br including VAT. Those looking for a snack can also get the house-special canapés for 96 Br, VAT included.
Happy hour will soon be introduced on Mondays and Tuesdays with a 20pc to 30pc discount, according to Tesfahun Tadesse, the club manager. Entrance fee is yet to be set, but it will not be less than 50 Br, so that we can cover band fees, he says.
The club will also be enforcing an age limit on those who can get in; 18-year olds to 20-year olds will only be allowed to stay in the club until 10pm.
For those that enjoy live music and appreciate the resonance that comes from having a full band, Yougovia is a sound choice for spending a night out on the town!