The Johannesburg bar and restaurant scene is finding its feet again after a tumultuous two years. We speak to the owner of the Radium Beer Hall, Lina Cabeleira, widow of the late Manny Cabeleira, about operating the Johannesburg institution in new ways.
What’s it been like running the business since Manny passed?
Even before then, the two years of the pandemic had been hard, because we couldn’t operate at all. When our doors were opened, we were allowed to sell takeaways but we had lost the majority of our customers – people were reluctant to go out.
This stressed Manny out but after his passing I took over the reins. I already knew the ropes and somehow managed to keep afloat with a constrained cash flow. I worked on a day to day business model, buying stock “just in time” and it worked for a while.
After issues with the bank in August 2021 I had to start from scratch. I juggled finances, brought in some stock, made it last and now we are fighting fit again. I’m working on a purely cash basis at the moment and not opening up any new bar accounts, apart from the ones that already exist.
Describe a typical day for you.
I open at 10:00 every morning and close around 22:00, unless I have a music night when I stay open later. I have some faithful staff who have stood by me and have been with me for a long time, for which I’m very grateful. I’ve organised an assistant to help me on some evenings so that I don’t do every evening on my own.
I stock check and ensure there is an adequate but not extreme supply. I buy local − if I don’t have a draught someone will buy the bottle, and I’ll buy the draught when the money comes in. It’s working for me.
What are your specials?
I’ve brought in daily food specials. I have half-priced pizza specials on Tuesday, a hake and chips special on Wednesday, chicken wings and rolls on Thursday and T-bone steaks on Friday. I change the specials every 10 days.
Happy hour is from 17:00 to 19:00 and I’ve kept the prices low.
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You have some music and comedy performances coming up?
I started the Saturday night music performances. Barry Hilton is coming up and he is my first comedy act here. I’m starting jazz nights once a month on a Friday.
The Radium has a long tradition – if these walls could talk?
Yes! I could write a book. The Radium is immortalised in Strange Days Indeed by Shaun Johnson. People have been extremely supportive of our business and there have many social media posts about their nights at the Radium. I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity.
Personally, I shun the spotlight; Manny was more comfortable with it. But I’ve stepped up to the plate – I’ve had to.
What’s the way forward for the Radium?
I’m hoping that I can step into my late husband’s shoes – his are big shoes to fill! My three sons have been extremely supportive of me, which is great, and they do come in and help, although they have full-time jobs.
I’m making a go of it and doing the best I can. I’m pushing through and keeping Manny’s legacy running. My deliveries have resumed and things are slowly coming back to normal. People who haven’t been here for a very long time are coming back. They love the vibe and our interior. The future is looking bright!
Performers at the Radium Beerhall: April and May 2022
8th: Akkedis - Neil Young Tribute show
10th: Barry Hilton lunchtime show at 12:30
23rd: Jeremy Franklin and The All Stars Band,
30th: Parable 15 with singer Zazz as opening act
7th: The Black Cat Bones
14th: Shotgun Tori with band
21st: Satellite '79
28th: The Fleetwood Mac Tribute Show − "The Stevie Nicks Story"
For all bookings, please call Andy on 0835421044
Address: 282 Louis Botha Ave, Orange Grove, Johannesburg, 2192 | Tel: 011 728 3866
Writing and images by Simon Matthews