Since its opening eight months ago, it has been the happening place inside the BOET Estate, at ABC bus stop on Adeniyi Jones’ end of Ikeja, Lagos. You can’t miss it. It is right there, at No. 1, Talabi Street, the first complex by your right as you turn into the estate.
It is not every day you find people giving avalanche of rave reviews about a leisure place. Not even on Tripadvisor. Usually, you’d find good verbiage mixed with bile that could at times make the review section a seesaw affair between a brigade of satisfied clientele and a battalion of disgruntled customers. So far, it has been a hail of good review for Kulture Yard. I have heard some rhapsodies about its grilled fish firsthand from colleagues in the office. “If you are tired, it’s a good place to while away time in the afternoon”– –that is a recent recommendation. Plus this good vibe about the place every Friday night as we head home dog-tired after a hard day’s work. The crowd, the energy, the buzz, the snazziness, sometimes leaves you wishful that you could stay back and enjoy the fun place. Eventually, the curiosity to find out more about this bubbling hangout became irresistible. It was time for a visit.
So, here we are in the main bar, sitting opposite the duo of Grace Otoaye and Emmanuel Ogbemudia, respectively the general manager and the facility manager, as we spend the next half an hour discussing their establishment.
From the main bar, where we are seated, you have a 360-degree view of the Yard’s layout. The main bar, built at the centre of the complex, is an open platform with tiled roof, side balustrades and string curtains. A small cubicle by its side serves as the service booth from where orders are attended to by at least three attendants. The eclectic design – carved chairs and half-gourd chandeliers, sectors of artificial turf, green murals, abstract graffiti and a couple of guava trees – combined to give the space cool, a tropical aura. At the corner, the stage––fitted stage light and graced with standing mic, set drum, keyboard, mixer machine and loudspeaker––speaks volume of its utility.
The place is owned by Buchi Atuonwu, popularly known as Buchi, the reggae gospel artist. The first question is about the choice of name. Kulture Yard, it turns out, is a diminutive of the expression “Christian Kingdom Culture.”
“The vision that my boss had in opening this place is to have a centre where believers can visit and have a swell time without any offensive experience, without having people around that makes them uncomfortable,” explains Otoaye.
She continues: “There is scepticism in society about Christians having fun. Christians should be able to say that “I am going to a bar that is decent”.”
By that she means a bar “that is decent that you can visit with your family.”
That is the model for Kulture Yard: a place that families can hang out, spend a whole day, have their lunch and dinner, kids get busy in the play section and everyone in the family enjoys a wholesome experience.
The management has been operating within this set philosophy.
“We don’t sell beer, whisky or brandy here. We don’t sell cigarette. Smoking is not allowed. And you don’t have to be worried that some girls will walk in here half-naked,” she says. “That is the mindset behind this set-up.”
Aside the usual smorgasbord of soft drinks, freshly-tapped palm wine, mild red wine, and non-alcoholic fruit wine are available. However, it will be erroneous to view the Yard as a place for Christians alone. “The bottom line is that it is a decent place where none of the services is in bad taste,” she stresses.
Talk time segues into tour time. With the facility manager leading the way, we climb the adjacent one-story building, up the stairs, to the snooker bar, a voluminous, airy space, where a snooker table is surrounded by set chairs and a cocktail bar. This bar, he says is opened to customers who feel inclined to relax there.
An adjoining passage leads into the VIP Lounge. When the door opens, we step into a different world: a long, rectangular room with cool interior and blue lighting that gives off a glowing effect that is at once calming and surreal. The lounge is a place for those who want a quiet time, but it comes with extra charges that are “reasonable.”
An exit through a side door at the extreme end leads to the front of the gym.
Ogbemudia reels out the gym fact: “There is a resident trainer and registered members. We have different packages, ranging from one month to three months to six months and one year. Monthly gym registration is N15, 000 for an individual and it is open from Monday to Saturday.”
Down the stairs, we are inside the indoor restaurant, a place for those who would like to dine away from the open space. In all, the Kulture Yard is one huge connected space.
The McOlivia’s Kitchen, the restaurant run by a concessionaire, is open throughout the day, providing lunch and dinner for patrons. The offering from the kitchen include Amala, Semo and poundo yam as well as all the popular soups, Isi ewu, Nkwobi and pepper soup inclusive. Olive’s Kitchen, the pastry section, serves breakfast and snacks for the rest of the day.
And what about the famous grilled fish? “That one is from us,” Otoaya readily supplies. “We are known for our grilled fish.”
The range of culinary option is one of the reasons the Yard is a 24-hour hangout. What’s more, the menu is matched with an affordable price list. “With N1, 000, you will eat good food here,” she offers.
There is also a boutique. Even as you walk past the fence outside, you get a glimpse of racks of clothes. Now the manger is saying “if you see anything you like, call our attention and we will get you the item you desire.”
A peek inside reveals a room filled with classy apparels and accessories. He gives a rundown of the stock as majorly packaged shirts, native attires and shoes. “The uniqueness of the designs is the mix of African prints with western wears,” Ogbemudia explains. “So you have t-shirts with Ankara touch or sweatpants with hoods with Ankara touch.”
The hard table divided by a net stands conspicuously in a corner, at the ready for a game of table tennis. On the evening of February 28, it was refreshing to find some young men engaged in a quick-fire game of Ping-Pong. The facility manager reveals that some patrons come in just to play rounds of table tennis as a form of workout. “N500 for three games, N1000 for seven games,” he informs. The play section for kids, however, is free of charge.
Without any doubt, Friday is Kulture Yard’s primetime.
“That is when we have our live band on stage,” Otoaye discloses. “It is also the day we hold our open mic session, when anyone from the crowd, can get up and say, ‘hey, I want to sing,’ and the microphone is handed over to him.”
Weekly agenda, she avows, will soon be beefed with Karaoke, comedy and poetry slam nights in a bid to make the place as lively as possible and ensure that everyone that walks in there catches some fun.
What else is there? Aha, a recording studio! How does the studio fit in? The manager hints at its connection to pipeline projects: “The open mic special night on last Friday of the month and the comedy night will help people to build their creative career.”
Kulture Yard can also transform into a multipurpose event centre as a venue for wedding and reception, birthdays bash and socials.
“Yesterday someone held a service of songs for her late mom here,” she points out, listing two options for those interested in holding their events there. “Either take over the entire complex or pay for the specific use of space or service.”
At this hangout, there is “no particular best time to come here.” Every time of the day, is the best time, morning afternoon or evening. That is the verdict according to the manager. “The same quality of service you get in the morning is what you will get in the evening.”
The hangout is a hit in the neighbourhood, drawing patrons from far and near, its clientele, a mix of well-heeled Nigerians and expatriates, quite a feat, for a leisure place that prohibits sales or consumption of beer, whisky, brandy or gin.
One gets an ascetic perspective on its non-alcohol policy by the time you come across a thought-provoking poem on the wall entitled “Bodi No Get Sense.”
Written by Buchi, the man who owns the Kulture Yard, the poem in pidgin, is loose but lyrical, a limerick of truth verses.
It reads as follow:
No mind bodi
No follow bodi
Bodi no get sense
Which bodi you wan follow sef?
Bodi be like dog
Wetin you teach am,
Na him e go do.
Play with am small
E go scatter for ground.
No play with bodi o
Teach am to follow head
Na head fit lead am
Because bodi na bad leader
No let am rule
If you let bodi rule
You go enter where you no plan.
Bodi de see?
Na eye dey push am.
Bodi no like fire
Fire de show am pepper
But bodi fit follow eye enter fire.
Bodi no de hear word.
Na him go make am strong.
Bodi no get sense.
Hol’ am well.