The Union Bar: Catch This Pop-up Bar While You Can

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The Union Bar: Catch This Pop-up Bar While You Can

Round the corner and inconspicuously tucked beneath Norman Goodfellows in Illovo is The Union Bar, the latest night spot to send ripples through the Illovo and Jozi massive. This isn’t just any bar though – not the dingy smoky kind or the crafty hipster kind. This is a pop-up bar that takes its mixology and artisinal cocktail making as seriously as it takes having a mighty good time. The Union Bar is also mobile and appears in unexpected locations, flipping our concept of what a bar is, or should be, on its head.

Conceptualised by two friends, Justin Kramer and Joshua Shifren, The Union Bar has transformed an actual working warehouse (the Norman Goodfellows stock room) into a solid bar-culture experience. It ticks all the boxes of what a bar should be and then mixes in some unexpected elements so that an outing there can feel more like a visit to an adult playground (all above board of course) than just a few drinks at a high-end venue.

The owners have experience in creating great ambience and delivering basic good service. Despite the hype and popularity, the place is never over full and the wait at the bar is generally just long enough to strike up a conversation with the person next to you but just short enough to not get too involved. There are also some unexpected elements to liven up the experience. There is the Bombay Sapphire concept room in which you can go and smell infusions of the ingredients that make up this brand of gin, there is the Tweet-for-a-Shooter machine that will instantly reward you with a free shooter if you give The Union Bar a shout-out on Twitter and Beer Pong Wednesdays to name a few.

And then there are the cocktails! From the classic Daiquiris and Long Islands, to hot cocktails like Death-by-Chocolate and Spiked Gluwein, to experimental ones that are infused with exotic ingredients ranging from rooibos tea and cherry-wood smoke.


The only disappointing thing about The Union Bar in Illovo is what it is fundamentally about: it won’t last forever. It will close its doors on 26 July in order to pop up again in another interesting and unexpected location soon after. In order to avoid disappointment the best solution would be to become yet another one of its devoted regulars and enjoy it while it’s hot.