Iguana Bar Kampala: A tale of Racial Discrimination.

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Business, Uganda
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

There have been very many complaints about the way people are treated in certain bars, restaurants and places of service in and around Kampala. Some friends have been thrown out of such setups for reasons less deserving of that course of action. Others have been discriminated against either because they didn’t look the part of someone who can afford the place or they were simply black.

In Kampala, It has become increasingly hard to find a bar where one can feel comfortable and appreciate the service and personnel of that bar. You feel so comfortable that you create a relationship with the waiters and waitresses. They know you by first name, they know how you like your drink, you have their contact numbers and you call to book happy hour, they will serve you with a smile regardless of whether the tab will be cleared or not, and they can tell when you have been having a bad day. They go past the point of delivering your drinks and become your friends.

Well, I have been going to Iguana Bar Kampala for the past three years and that is the kind of relationship I had formed with Ben and Joan.


On Friday night/Saturday morning, a couple of my colleagues and I left Legends Bar Kampala and opted to go to Iguana Bar for the FNL after party. We had been having a great night and we didn’t see a reason to end it as yet.

On reaching Iguana, we were excited by the ‘dancers’ and we pulled up our seats at the counter so as we could have ‘front row view’. It didn’t take long for us to start feeling merry and one by one my colleagues called it a night as some of us continued.

As the drinks ‘kept flowing and time kept flying’, we were also becoming tired. So Stephen and I decided to carry our beers to the lower section of the bar and have our last round from there. We found the Ras Clan deejays playing some major reggae and we decided we could stay a bit longer.

As we continued to drink, a lady came and sat nearby as she was already knackered. She later tried to leave but it was now raining and she opted to sit it out. After a while, one of Iguana’s ‘Bouncers’ (security personnel) came and woke her up and told her to leave.

The lady told him; “It is raining, let it reduce or stop then I will leave.”

The Bouncer ignored her, pulled her off the seat, picked up her shoes and shoved her out of the bar into the rain. He then threw her shoes towards her and came back to the bar. I got up and asked him why he had done that. Stephen followed and we told him that what was done was wrong. I asked him what if it had been done to his sister. He retorted by telling us that he was tired and it was time to close. We asked him to let the lady come back as she waited for the rain to stop but he wasn’t having any of it. He walked away to the gallery area.

As we were still standing there, Iguana’s Manager Marias (not sure of the spelling) walked in and we stopped him. We narrated what had happened and he defended his Bouncer replying that they were done and wanted to close. We told him that it was raining and we would leave when the rain stopped. He told us to Fcuk off and leave his bar.

We were not about to have this nonsense. We told him that we had been buying beer and we can’t move in the rain. As Stephen was moving around, he was grabbed by Marias and he was put in a chokehold. Someone separated them and Marias went on to continue insulting us as he pushed us out. The Bouncer was standing by as all of this was happening.

By now, the rain had almost stopped and it had become light drizzles. We went outside and the Boda Boda riders who had witnessed this whole saga came to give us their two cents. The riders told us that that was not the first time they had seen Marias treat people like that. They moved on to confirm to us that Marias has been beating up people who actually ‘drink and blackout in their bar’.

As we continued talking to the riders, we noticed that the white folks had been left to continue with their drinking and none of them had been told to leave the bar. I pointed that out and one of the riders told me; “’abadugavu’ (black people) are thrown out and white people continue to drink till morning”.

Seeing that the whole saga had sobered us up, we decided to go to another bar and drink some more as we processed what had just happened. We left the lady who had been thrown out earlier at the Iguana Bar entrance still trying to gather herself up as she looked for her shoes. Stephen wanted to make a police statement but alcohol got the better of him. But even as we left, no white folk had been told to leave.

On the same day, I shared my experience on Twitter and I was surprised with some of the revelations that were shared in return. One of the ladies (Martha) shared a story of how she had witnessed girls being refused to enter Iguana Bar because the bouncer assumed they had come to look for white men.

The following day, a lady friend of mine told me a story of how they had been told to leave the same bar but when she returned to pick something she had forgotten, she found that the bar had been reopened and white folks were entering and merrymaking at ease.

These are not the only stories that people have come out to share about how they were treated at Iguana Bar or other bars. The saddest thing is that no one came out and shared any of these experiences or we would have avoided what happened on Saturday and probably what Martha had also witnessed.

Why would someone experience racial discrimination and then keep quiet only for other people to go through the same ordeal? I read a story by one of my friends (Allan) about events along these lines that took place at the now fallen MishMash Bar in Kololo.

Another blogger, shared her experience about how she had been mistreated by security guards and the manager at Bubbles O’ Leary’s because they were following a certain ‘screening process’ to let people into their bar.

If bar owners/management are going to continue letting their bouncers and managers mistreat and racially discriminate customers, there will come a time and they will experience what happened to MishMash.

I was not amused with what happened at Iguana Bar. From disrespecting a woman to racially discriminating customers all in one go!

I have been a loyal patron of the bar and I have been at the forefront of promoting one of its famous nights. But just like the saying goes; “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. I have friends who love Iguana a lot. But I choose to make my next decision not based on whether my friends will continue to go to Iguana or not. It is based on what I witnessed.

I am sorry to my friends who I won’t be seeing anytime soon because they work at Iguana Bar. Well, this is my call to action; as of today, I will NEVER again step into Iguana Bar Kampala.

  1. […] Here we reproduce the original story of this account from an Online blog […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ben says:

    marius is a racist who has a drugs issue. the amount of cocaine that he and sebastian the other one are snorting is too much. they insult people and are unfriendly, specially if they don’t consider you one of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. deecesca says:

    Reblogged this on deecesca and commented:
    Say No To Racism.


  4. Anne says:

    Sorry about that. Thanks for the share.


  5. Ghoste Masikini says:

    It is simple. Don’t go back to Iguana. Personally I quit that bar about a year ago. I walked in 15 minutes to Happy Hour and I was the only customer. I think they had opened like 5 minutes before that coz I found the barman washing glasses, etc.

    So I asked for a beer, and jokingly mentioned that since happy hour is 15 minutes away, I might as well get beer at happy hour prices coz I was customer # 1.

    Imagine my shock when the barman brought a beer, after a 10 minute wait, with 5 minutes to happy hour….

    And he insisted I pay 6k for the pint.

    I have never gone back !


  6. CA says:

    It really is difficult to run a place where there is alcohol served but it doesnt mean that they can treat people like that. Best response is “just get the hell out and find another place where you will be treated like a human” .


  7. Monte says:

    This is not South Africa or Europe where you can just get away with these things. We need to find a way of dealing with these people that don’t respect the natives. If anything we should get dibs on everything!! Im just so angry right now, might have Lizard for Lunch!!


  8. ras brown says:

    hating msgs not good. esp when u r drunk. if u have an inferior complex, keep it to urself..
    miscommunication brings misinformation..

    iguana has been there 4 ages..

    please be nice

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chako says:

    I have been to Iguana on several occasions and have not personally witnessed such incidences. However, there never being smoke without fire and according to several other stories from other places such as abaubbles’O Leaey. I have sufiicient reason to beleive in them. Thing is, I strongly abhor racism, tribalism and so on. I would not miind storming such a place with a blazing gun. On the other hand, let us not forget than some of our own places treat us the same

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pipi Cax says:

    Although thanks for sharing your story with us, but I am gutted that you did not go to a local police. You had money to fund taking that female assaulted and the bodaboda guys who witnesed the incidence to the police station. As a group you would have gone to a local poilce station and flagged up this behaviour. You chose to go somewhere instead to continue with your drinking. Infringing your constitutional duty to be a useful Ugandan to motherland Uganda. Next time eefectively contribute to making Uganda a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

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