On October 1st, 2017, there was heavy traffic on the popular Sanusi Fafunwa Street, in Victoria Island in Lagos. That was the evening Sidewalk Bar, (VI) was opened at 23, Sanusi Fafunwa. That was where all the big boys and babes gathered to celebrate. Sidewalk (VI) is coming two and a half years after Sidewalk Ikeja, Lagos that has become the hottest hangout in the Ikeja area of town in Lagos. At Sidewalk Ikeja, every night, close to 500 people hangout there to have a drink and enjoy all the delicacies it has to offer, from pepper-soup to goat head (isiewu), Nkwobi, peppered chicken to Ofada. The same are available in the newly opened VI branch.
Why did the owner, Kunle Adegbite open a 2nd outlet in VI? How did he make the Ikeja branch, which now has a Lounge attached to it, become very popular in just two and half years. He told City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE his success story.
If you meet Kunle Adegbite for the very first time, you won’t know he runs a successful bar in Lagos. He is cool and calm. And he is a highly disciplined businessman, one who has kept faith with that time tested principle of business: do not get high on whatever you produce.
Though he runs the highly successful Sidewalk Bar on Obafemi Awolowo Way, Ikeja, he is quite humble about it and he hit his bed most times by 11pm, unless there is a special event at the bar. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke and he does not womanise. This is because he likes to be sober enough to keep an eye on his close to 70 staff running the Ikeja branch. And now he has more staff to contend with in his newly opened VI branch. What has helped him succeed is because he has a structure on ground that runs whether he is there or not.
What made him open the new VI outlet? “The need to cater for our Island customers”, he explains. “You can’t ignore them. There is a huge market there waiting for such an outlet. We did our research well, saw the vaccum for a place like that and we moved into it. We opened Sidewalk (VI) becuase we have been looking forward to expanding our business from Ikeja and going on to the Island. Basically, we are doing outdoor business. We saw a perfect location in VI, the location presented itself. We were thinking of expanding the business to the Island when we were 2 years. But once we saw a good property, we knew we had to act fast, to extend our outdoor business to the Island. There is nothing of such around here, in the whole of Victoria Island in Lagos. So we took up that opportunity”.
What is the concept behind Sidewalk (VI)? What did he have in mind when he set it up? “The VI outlet is a place mainly for the big boys and babes, a place for respectable people to unwind. Its an outdoor bar with an inside lounge and a restaurant during the day. We want to cater for the Middle Class and Upper Middle Class. We want to cater for the working class women. The men can come there and hangout after work, to beat the traffic, hangout. Like they say, there is nothing like atmosphere. We work with nature. People having been in the AC all day, need a place that is natural to relax and refreshen in our gardens have a fresh air, good pepper soup, good food, both continental and local, are available there and we have our grills also”.
How old is Sidewalk Ikeja? “Its two an half years now”, he says. “We would be three next year”. What has been the experience? “The experience has been the usual mix of good and bad experience. Its the usual challenge that you face in start up business. We thank God. The experience I have had of running Sidewalk has been good so far. Our plan is to expand and to keep expanding all around Lagos”.
When he started off Sidewalk originally, what was the idea? The vision was to turn it into a brand that can be replicated. By that, I mean a brand that will specialise in one particular kind of business that we are known for and which we offer our clientele. We are particular about outdoor bars, designed in a lovely way, good ambience, security, good food, everything to relieve people of Lagos stress.”
At a point Sidewalk Ikeja added a lounge, why was this so? “It was a business decision. The lounge business is not particularly our core focus, which we set out to do. No. We added the lounge because we wanted to add some premium value to the Ikeja axis. It was to add value to our outdoor value there”.
There is a world of difference between the real Kunle Adegbite and the Kunle Adegbite that runs Sidewalk. How does he reconcile the two? “You are right. What I do is just business. I am a family man. I remain a family man. It takes a lot of understanding from my family, especially my wife to do that kind of job I do. From abinito when I was younger, I had this flair for the restaurant business, the bar business and how it should be run. Its a passion I have for the job. I thank God for the understanding of my family, and my wife especially who have all supported me to do this. I am really not an outdoor person. I am not really somebody who goes out like that. I am a 7-9 person. You won’t find me out late night. But I like to provide service. I like to give people what they need. The two personalities are different. The Kunle Adegbite that runs Sidewalk is a businessman providing service to the people. There is the other Kunle the family man, that rolls on the ground with his kids and wife. I can’t be the same person. These are two different personalities.” How does he also run his medical business, which is another side to him. That is his regular job from 9am to 5pm. He represents a global brand that provides medical service to celebrities who can afford it. They fly their registered customers to Dubai for treatment. “Its been challenging”, he says. “In Sidewalk our staff strength is almost hitting 70 now. I am actually thinking of leaving my paid job in the Healthcare business and focus on my hospitality and restaurant and lounge business”.
Kunle was asked to talk about what shaped his life in his younger life. “I was born and bred in Ibadan”, he explains. “I started my life in Ibadan. I went to Government College, Ibadan, then University of Ilorin. Growing up in Ibadan shaped me. It is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. One of the greatest things that has happened to me is being an Ibadan person. I always tell people that I am not a Lagos boy. I am an Ibadan boy and I am proud to be one any time. Ibadan has really shaped me to be myself any day any time. With me what you see is what you get, no pretence. I like to be myself 100%. I also say to people, coming to the Island now, I am not an Island big boy. My background has taught me to be myself, don’t pretend to be what you are not.”
“I am just Kunle Adegbite and I remain Kunle Adegbite, a businessman trying to succeed and survive in business. My entry into the hospitality business is because of the vaccum I saw in that sector. Most people who had gone into the restaurant and lounge business before now don’t really ask themselves the vital question of what people really need. I did my research. I asked people I sit down with, when I hang out, what do they need? I also ask myself the question: what do I need? It was that answer to our need that created Sidewalk.”
“When we started out in Ikeja at that time, we looked at the whole Awolowo Way, starting from Alausa down to Ikeja bus stop, there was only 1 or 2 premium places people go to drink. We felt we can do something different-put up a lounge and restaurant on that road. Its the desire to do great things and to do it well that made us go into it. That is the motive behind it”.
So in the new VI location what does it offer? “We have our new state of the Art kitchen in our VI location. It provides good local food and continental dishes. We have our in house chef. We have our grill areas. We have our Barbeque fish, barbeque grilled cat fish, asun, we have our Nkwobi (locally made), Isiewu (Goat Head). We have everything you can get in any local pub. That is what we have brought to VI in a more premium way, in a more presentable way to those on the Island. The design of the place is unique. The design of the place reflects the various people who populate V.I. We have expatriates and Nigerians. So we welcome expatriates to come there and have an African feel. That is why the design has some Ashanti designs from Ghana, the use of Rafia Mats on the roof. We picked a little from China, a little from Nigeria. We matched all these together to design an outdoor bar. Everybody is welcome there, be it Asian, African, European they are all welcome.”