Nairobi’s first drive-thru liquor store

Food & Drinks

Nairobi’s first drive-thru liquor store


I want to tell you about Mbilia Bel. But to tell you about Mbilia Bel, I need to tell you about this one time I was driving along Riara Road, Nairobi, and saw a drive-through.

At first, I thought it was some enterprising Kenyan selling food on the go, for people who don’t have time to sit in a restaurant.

But then on closer look, it was a booze drive-through for people who while driving suddenly think, ‘aah, I need a bottle of wine!” Can you imagine the enterprising nature of Kenyans? Never seen one in my life. I couldn’t believe it, so I turned back. It’s called Sebuleni, which means the living room.

It’s not your typical drive-through, where you speak to a voice from a box. This one is built more like a bus stage where you pull into a window on a wall. (Hole in the wall?) In the room was a lady.

One look at her and I thought, whoa, Mbilia Bel! The Congolese songbird. Maybe it was her cheeks or her eyes. But when you saw Mbilia Bel once you never forgot her. I mean, I’m 42 now, and I saw Mbilia Bel on the Urtna programme (Voice of Kenya) in the 80s.


This was a time TV was so pious and bland that when Mbilia Bel dancing from her waist down was so salacious, we would be sent to bed. (You couldn’t change channels because there was only one).

I wanted to tell her that she reminded me of Mbilia Bel, but she looked too young to know who that was. Plus I didn’t want to start a long tale about Mbilia Bel because remember it’s a drive-through not speed dating. I asked for a drink they didn’t have and I got on my way. I later told a friend of mine about the drive-through and he didn’t seem to see the novelty in the idea like I did. Well, until I said, “there is a lady there who looks like Mbilia Bel.” He said, “Whoa!” Now he wanted to go see.

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