Not crowded enough

2013-04-20 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG nightclub Crowded House is closing its doors after 16 years because the city’s white student population is dwindling.

Partying at the venue has been a rite of passage for students since the early 1990s, but changing demographics in the student population have apparently hit hard.

Club owner Carlos de Freitas (39) said the doors would close at the end of the month.

De Freitas said the market had changed dramatically over the past decade.

“We cater traditionally for the white student market, but that market has shrunk over the years,” he said.

Back in August 1996, when the nightclub was opened, De Freitas counted about nine clubs that existed then.

All of them have since shut.

“There are no numbers coming through the door. Every business has to do with numbers, but there are no numbers because there are no students anymore.”

Crowded House’s numbers have fallen drastically over the past five years. The club’s lease also come to an end.

“It’s a bittersweet moment. It’s has been my baby for a long time.”

Having grown up in a retail industry, De Freitas’s dream of owning a club came true at the age of 24.

“It was a dream and I made it happen.

“In the past, nightclubs would open and close because owners treated them like their playgrounds, but we treated it like a business.”

De Freitas said the club was a central meeting point for students.

“I think for them it was a home away from home.”

Celebrities also came through the doors.

The likes of Just Jinjer, Goldfish, Flash Republic, Prime Circle and SA’s top celebrity DJs have performed at the venue.

But Crowded House also gained notoriety for drunken brawls that occasionally ended up in court.

When asked about the fights that took place, De Freitas said where there was alcohol there were bound to be altercations.

Crowded House’s biggest night by far was in 2001, during the first season of Big Brother Africa, which attracted 1 800 customers.

There are already rumours around town that a new club will be opened in its place, with a new name, new feel and new management.

For now, De Freitas will focus his energy on his Franki Bananaz franchise.

He thanked his customers for all their support, saying: “I have wonderful memories there.”

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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