News of the reopening of a number of municipally owned beer gardens in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe may be news to locals but the description of what they are used for is pretty interesting, as we are told by a brewery spokesman:
...those leasing the premises had undertaken to maintain certain social functions for which the beer gardens have been used in the past....Residents stand to benefit a lot from the franchise exercise since retailing outlets will continue to provide them with the usual social responsibility amenities like lending them furniture when they are bereaved. They will continue to allow residents to hold their meetings in the facilities, as before, as well as being important venues for various social activities like traditional choir practices, end-of-year burial society parties and Ingwebu-sponsored traditional dance competitions.
We speak a lot about beer as a social tie and the role it plays in community but this appears to be far more deeply rooted than anything we see in industrialized countries. They appear to be leased out to private enterprise even though they are owned by the municipal government and this blog post at a US diplomatic corps website indicates that these beer gardens can seat 1,000 at a time and are used all hours of the day. The city of Bulawayo may be something of a hold out against less traditional newer and more upscale drinking spots when compared to other communties.
A poem about life in the beer garden.