From bad boy to legitimate business owner: The Corner Lounge Story

Mary-Anne Gontsana
Nkululeko Tuntubele, the owner of Corner Lounge, a newly opened bar-lounge in Gugulethu. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.
Mary-Anne Gontsana

Nkululeko Tuntubele is the owner of Corner Lounge, a cosy bar-lounge in the hub of Gugulethu at NY 138. Officially opened this year on 31 March, the lounge is a container previously used as a hair salon.

“I was involved in crime. I wasn’t really interested in opening a business in the township because of my ways,” said Tuntubele.

“The container belonged to my friend who used it as a hair salon. I approached him, and tried many times to convince him to sell it to me, but he refused. Finally, after a couple of years he called me up and asked if I was still interested in buying it. I said yes. It was a bit difficult, because the container is on someone else’s property, and she did not want the container to be used as a place where one would sell alcohol. She had no problem with it being used for a hair salon or a shop, but not for alcohol. But after much convincing from my side, she gave in and is now my landlord,” Tuntubele explained.

Growing up in a business environment, Tuntubele said he has always wanted to be a businessman like his father, who owned different taverns and was a part-owner of a popular nightclub.

“Just because my father was a businessman, I never got things free. He always told me to work for what I want, but after I finished matric, things failed for my father and I really had to fend for myself. I wanted nice things, like clothes and branded shoes. This is why I got into crime,” he said.

Tuntubele became involved with crime because he wanted to make money quickly, and working for it was not easy. After making the quick cash, he would then waste it on unnecessary things, but during his four years of crime, he also got arrested. His most publicised crime was in 2005 when he was arrested for housebreaking with the reason being he was possessed by evil spirits. “I was on the front page of a community newspaper, handcuffed, and the headline said I was a tokoloshe,” Tuntubele said.

In 2002, he started his first legitimate business called, Siyaya Events, which organised entertainment events. “I grew up and realised that I was setting a very bad example, and I was not brought up this way by my parents. So I started Siyaya, and organised my first event at the local pool. I even had a couple of celebrities attend,” Tuntubele said. While busy with Siyaya, his friend who had sold him the container approached him with a business idea. This idea ended up in them partnering and opening a club named Tonic in 2008, which was situated on Long Street.

“It has always been my dream, and still is, to open my own nightclub in Camps Bay. That is where the idea of Corner Lounge stems from. I wasn’t interested in opening a business in the township, because there were so many things to consider. Since people knew that I was involved in crime, I had to consider the fact that once my place opened, I ran the risk of not pulling in any customers. People had fears that they might be robbed or shot while at Corner Lounge. I have a child, so putting in money for this business was also a risk because I did not know whether it would be successful,” Tuntubele said.

He used the money he made from his Siyaya events to open the lounge, which operates Monday through Sunday. He acts as his own security guard at the door, and says his future plan for his business “is making the brand bigger.”

“Corner Lounge makes no competition with other businesses around it. I just want to be a good example to the youth who are involved in crime,” Tuntubele said.

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TOPICS:  Society

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