Out on a limb: the bar inside a tree

At first, it was all about who had the smallest. The contest was international, heated and intensely nationalistic

The interior of the baobab bar at Sunland Nursery in South Africa. Photograph: bigbaobab.co.za

The interior of the baobab bar at Sunland Nursery in South Africa. Photograph: bigbaobab.co.za

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 02:00

“Dawson’s Lounge in Dublin is pretty small,” said the Irish man.

“The smallest pub in Britain is The Smith’s Arms in Dorset,” began the Brit. “Used to be a blacksmith’s. It’s standing room only if four people get there before you. If there’s five you have to drink outside. The queue up at the bar is two deep. Max. It’s that tiny. I’ve also been to a bar in England in a railway signal box. That was snug.”

“I’ve got a mate who has a really small one,” said the Scot proudly. “He showed me it at the bottom of his garden. His shed is only 10 by eight. It’s fully carpeted and has beer on draught. And a good range of optics. And a proper foot rail. He’s also got Sky Sports.”

“How about the longest?”

“Easy. Dusseldorf,” said the well-travelled American. “ That’s huge. Toronto’s Great Banking Hall is pretty impressive too. There are a few enormous ones in Florida. One has world largest collection of hula hoops.”

“Dubai has a couple of whoppers. One can seat 700. It’s 90ft long.”

There were whistles of awe.

An Aussie voice piped up. “Mildura Working Man’s Club in Victoria used to have 32 beer taps. It stretched 300ft. Till they put more pokies in.”

“That’s nothing ,” responded a Kiwi , downsizing. “ You should go to Dunedin. The Mou Very bar’s only 1.6m wide. Must be the most cramped disco on earth.”

The American shrugged. “The Beer Barrel Saloon in Ohio on Lake Erie has 56 beer taps and 160 bar stools. It’s got to be the longest bar in the world at 405ft, 10½in.” More intakes of breath.

“Jo’burg’s Rand Club is pretty long,” said the landlord. “But mine is the thickest.”

“We know that, Doug. That’s why we’re here. That’s why you get 7,000 visitors every year. Because they know you have a really big one and they want to see if they can get their arms around it. They say you need 40 people to give it a team hug. Yours is gigantic. And tiny too.”

Doug tried to look modest about his circumference. Doug and Heather van Heerden run a 6,000-year-old bar in Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo, South Africa. They carbon-dated it. The world’s only pub in a tree is to be found at the Sunland Farm Mango and Avocado Tree Nursery, four hours north of Pretoria.

“At first we thought it would be a snack bar and tea shop for customers but it turned into a local,” Doug told me over a pride of Lion’s and a Castle or two. The baobab bar is 19m high and 33m wide.

“I got the idea from a much smaller baobab used as a boozer during the gold rush in Gravelotte about 75km away. I bought the tree as a present for my wife as she comes from Kenya and is mad about baobabs. It’s naturally hollow so we didn’t have much to do converting it into a novel hostelry. The dartboard is a challenge.”

The tree pub is decorated with brass mining lights , helmets, knives, a porthole and a few other nautical fittings and fixtures. “We thought about calling it the Adansonia, which is the Latin name for the baobab,” explained Heather. “Someone suggested ‘Out of My Tree’. But it hasn’t got a name yet. When we were clearing it out we found a Bushman rock bed. And tools from an early Dutch pioneer of the mid 19th century. Our pub may be the oldest in the world as the tree is thought to be one of the oldest.”

“Fancy another croc repellant?” Doug poured me another. “They say that if you drink baobab seeds with water you won’t be eaten by a crocodile.”

Heather smiled. “But please don’t pick the flowers. If you do that you’ll be eaten by a lion.”

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