Warsaw Shows Us How To Open a Bar in Three Weeks

Jan 25, 2019

There’s a new bar in Cape Town and it’s called Warsaw. Nothing to do with Poland and everything to do with Japanese bar culture.

Len, an art director in the film industry and a musician (Wild Eyes, Tannhäuser Gate & Context Model), tells us how he got the small bar – named for a Joy Division album – up and running in three weeks.

This is the first time you’ve opened a bar, so tell us, what inspired you to do so?

A few years back I visited Japan and fell in love with the mini bars in Tokyo and Osaka, smashing drinks in tiny little spaces and talking to Japanese strangers who couldn’t really speak English. I wanted to replicate that bar experience in Cape Town. I also wanted a space where I could drink with my friends while listening to music that we enjoy.

Three weeks sounds like a really short time to open a bar. How did you pull it off?

A friend of mine owns the Repeat After Me shop next door and told me that the space that was available to rent. Fortunately, it came with a liquor licence.

“It is not possible to open a bar in a few weeks if the venue does not have a liquor licence. The elusive South African liquor licence can take many months or even years to obtain.”

The space needed some work as the business prior to mine was a massage parlour. From playing in bands and throwing parties over the years, I have a DIY ethic so I built a lot of the structural things myself. I got some friends from the film industry to help me with some of the building work. I had a limited budget, so the idea was to get it going as quickly as I could and then hopefully when I start making sales, I could make improvements gradually. Another thing that worked in my favour is that I have a couple of friends who own restaurants, so they helped me a lot by offering advice and sharing their contacts.

Mpumelelo Mcata, Inge Beckman and Warsaw owner Len Cockcroft.

Mpumelelo Mcata, Inge Beckman and Warsaw owner Len Cockcroft. Photo by Steak.


Do you use a Point of Sale system and how do you accept payments?

I ordered a card reader and a cash box from YOCO. They also have a free POS which you can use with your mobile device. Initially, I ordered a bottom of the range android tablet to install the app on but it didn’t work very well. I replaced that with an iPad and now it works perfectly. I’d love it if the POS could allow the barman to open customer tabs. I’m hoping they’ll build that feature in.

Tell us about your opening night.

It was pretty crazy! A lot of friends turned up so there were a lot of people outside the bar in the street as the space is pretty small. I think that may have attracted people walking past as the bar is just off Kloof St which is a busy part of the city. The water stopped half-way through the night due to a faulty meter and the card reader wasn’t playing nicely with the Android tablet. Other than that, I think people seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Have you hired any staff yet?

A chef friend of mine who has opened two restaurants helped me with the bar and also does bar shifts when he can. There have been a few people interested in bartending so I’m in the process of getting them started and seeing when they can work as I’m picking up art directing jobs again. Currently cleaning the bar myself, but will be hiring someone to clean soon. We have a security guy called Alan, who keeps a watchful eye about and also clears and washes glasses.

Great chat, Len. We’ll catch up with you again soon to hear just how well Warsaw is doing. Cheers!


101 Weltevreden St, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town

Open Wed – Sat (5pm until late)


Mandy Robinson

Mandy Robinson

Founder of Rotally

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