The Covid-19 lockdown might have changed the face of 88 Vilakazi Street but the pandemic hasn’t been able to stifle the creativity of Nkululeko Dada Maseko, who has reinvented his hospitality business to meet the challenges head on.
“When Covid-19 hit, the gin bar we were running closed down and we came up with the idea to start something different for Vilakazi Street, which is very formal and mostly restaurants,” Maseko said. 88 Beach Soweto was born in the larger outdoor space behind the former gin bar, bringing a luxury party beach vibe to Soweto’s most famous street, featuring a large area of beach sand.
But cashflow has been tough during the lockdown and many jobs were lost as a result. 88 Beach is one of 400 hospitality industry businesses which are receiving support from Diageo South Africa after the financial losses caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, with the #WeChoose campaign which provides a stock injection and marketing support, as well as a movement to ensure the promotion of responsible drinking.
The purpose of #WeChoose, launched in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, is to help rebuild the liquor industry, which was hit by months of not being able to trade either at all, or only during restricted hours. “We will do this responsibly in terms of both trading and consumption,” said Diageo SA’s Marketing Director, Zizwe Vundla.
“We want to avoid yet another strict lockdown where the alcohol industry suffers, so all parties need to play their part – responsible trading by outlets and responsible consumption by consumers.”
Maseko said Diageo’s financial support had helped the business to relaunch the gin studio space as Society 88. “This everyday venue will be a place to enjoy breakfast and do some work on your laptop, and in the evening, turn into a venue which curates experiences based on urban culture and music.”
“Diageo was a great help they put money into our bottom line and allowed us to trade by giving us stock. We are also investing in our infrastructure so that we have and indoor and outdoor venue which is suitable for all seasons. We have built a good business, but we understand this support is not compulsory.”
“#WeChoose to trade responsibly and we ask our customers that they choose to be responsible too, and use #WeChoose to drink responsibly on their social media platforms to show support,” Maseko said.