JOHANNESBURG— Ice clunks as Thokozane Nxumalo fixes a drink over a long bar of antique wood that’s a luxuriant deep red-brown color. It’s faded in patches, courtesy of the elbows of the many people who’ve leaned on it over the decades.
Lamps hanging over the barman cast dim yellow light onto dull brass panels that patch and reinforce some of the worn and cracked sections of the wooden bar.
This is The Guildhall bar in bustling Harrison Street in inner-city Johannesburg, where Nxumalo’s on a first-name basis with the regulars.
He says some of them have been drinking here for 50 years. He’s able to pour their favorite concoctions with his “eyes closed.” But as for himself, he’s a life-long teetotaler.
“Since I was born, I never drink! I never tasted beers!” Nxumalo exclaims.