Beefcakes Babes

Last night turned out to be an unexpected trip to the well-known “Gay District” of Illovo with a few friends.

Most of the day was spent lying under an umbrella next to the pool trying to escape the sun. While sipping on chilled champers, we hoped that the ever building clouds on the horizon would bring some rain to relieve the oppressive heat emanating from the earth and surrounding buildings.

Once the sun had set, we rallied enough to get ourselves off our sun loungers, dressed and ready to head out to see what the surrounds of Sandton had to offer. Being the 2nd of January many places were closed, I guess as most people are away from Johannesburg on holiday, and businesses use this time to give their staff leave as well.

We headed through to Illovo and while waiting to hear back from our friends about what time they would be joining us, decided to grab a drink and possibly something to eat at Beefcakes. Beefcakes tout themselves as the best burger and cocktail joint in Johannesburg. The fact that their scantily clad staff are not bad on the eye makes it an all-round great place to hang out before heading to nearby bars and clubs.


We grabbed at seat at the fairly deserted bar; the entire restaurant must have had at maximum of twenty-five people scattered amongst the tables. We decided that cocktails would be in order, my friend ordered a martini and myself a frozen mojito. My friend’s Martini was terrible, the glass was half empty and the contents barely palatable, whilst my mojito was so sickly sweet I felt ill about a quarter of the way through – not the best start to our evening.

We were chatting and waiting for friends, when the drag show started. Beefcakes are well-known for its outrageous and entertaining drag shows, in fact, Friday nights are known as “Fags, Hags and Drag” on their website. Not there for the show we had opted to sit at the bar, so we could shoot out when our friends arrived.

About three minutes into the show the barman came over and, rather sheepishly, informed us that the owner had said that although we were sitting at the bar, we would need to pay R 80 to watch the show. We said that we didn’t want to pay as we weren’t sure what our plans were, but he replied that unfortunately it was non-negotiable. Suffice to say, we left and went to another restaurant next door, where we stayed and ate.

So here’s my question. Would you, as a restaurant owner, during possibly the quietest week of the year for the restaurant industry, chase away potential business? Who knows, we may have ordered dinner had we been enjoying the show, we may have urged our friends to stay when they got there, which would have meant more business, drinks and dinner for them. To me, this makes not one iota of sense, rather encourage people to stay and keep the atmosphere pumping in the bar as opposed to chasing away your patrons? I understand that a business has rules but if you are clearly not full, I am sure those rules can be bent to accommodate and work around a situation that surely cannot be good for business (staff wages, overheads, performers to pay etc.)

Let me know your thoughts on the above, and any other contributions you may have, not only on restaurants, but any lifestyle, fashion or events that you find interesting/controversial. http://www.heatherhook.com/contact/


Clifford Cooper Jan 3, 2015 at 4:20 pm

Dear Heather.
The performers at Beefcakes earn their salary from the R80 that guests pay over and above their meals. Just because it’s a quiet night in the restaurant is even more reason for clients to pay for the entertainment. Artists are not in the business to provide free entertainment just because you wanted to eat. Good on Beefcakes for looking out for their artists.

Nico Jan 3, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Unfortunately the restaurant cannot accommodate everyone and considering you are probably one of the minority, it is good that the restaurant owner stood his ground. I have been to Beefcakes and my drinks, food and the drag show was worth every cent! Perhaps next time, think of appreciating the effort that goes into making the drinks, food and especially the hours spent by the entertainers getting ready to give a fabulous show!

Jason Temlett Jan 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm

I too was at Beefcakes in the early evening last night (Jan 2nd). A regular of the Beefcakes’ bar I was charged for a spirit and mixer…. of which the booze had been neglected. Sat down on the sofa…which smelt so offensively of off milk/sick we had to get up and leave (in the hopes we hadn’t leaned back into the mess)… but similarly not before we had been told we would need to pay for the usual and standard weekly live entertaintment. With cheaper and better restaurants now up in the centre beefcakes will need serious consideration should they wish to remain sustainable. Flamingos, disco balls, overpriced food and Drag Queens are simply annoying when reason for a poor night out, bad service and naive itemised billing. Beefcakes is our usual precursor to our Fridays out. Not even oiled up six packs can erase the bad experiance and poor impression made last night on both regulars and newcomers.

jdance Jan 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm

It is clear that you are not entirely familiar with this establishment. Some nights it gets ridiculously busy. This night in question might have been anexception. The regular patrons have no qualm with the charge for the show as they support it happily. One other thing is that this section is a three way business where they support both the underwear shop as well as the night club and vice versa. Beefcakes opens first, and then the patrons roll over to Babylon bar. It is a very popular place to party on a Friday night. Perhaps do yourself the favour and revisit a little bit later in January.

Alejandro Jan 3, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Good Day Heather,

Saw this posting on FB and I was really shocked to see what you wrote. I have been at this establishment on many occasions as well as the one in Cape Town when I am in South Africa and I’m a little interested as it is the norm the pay for a show whether your at a bar or table? But maybe I’m a little too well traveled but I’m lost with your statement but I do believe that you may be missing the entire picture. I will also mentioned that every waiter I have experienced has been extremely professional and the management and owners have always impressed me. To answer your question I would like to ask another question as I believe perception is always one’s true deception….would you rather have the right clientele that promotes what your selling or let any rubbish through the door? The right of administration is clearly provided which you have touched on but clearly you are not in business, nor the entertainment world either as you have clearly missed the bigger picture.

Beef Cakes has been a true supporter to gay rights and has even made an impact within the cancer world as I am a cancer survivor and they provided me with a night to remember when I entered my remission. I am an educated professional who has no problem with paying of the right atmosphere which Beef Cakes has always provided. I have also been in the entertainment world and now an investment banker so I do believe that your statement while opinionated is clearly made without professional experience and a clear lack of important variables.

I would advise that if you ever do return that making a reservation and actually planning your evening would be prudent as most professional entertainment bloggers do , do things a little differently as I know a few (as this is comes across as a vacationer a little short in the pocket). I also so understand that this is merely your opinion but I believe it to be extremely short sighted, providing negativity and I have to admit that with the right type of friends it truly doesn’t matter where you go, priceless memories always occur but maybe its because I value every moment that my life has to offer.

I am passionate about what this establishment stands for but then again I see the bigger picture, and my hope is that after reading this that maybe a deeper insight will be ascertained.

I hope your 2015 will be filled with more positive moments and I truly hope you make a positive impact with your writing as the world is so indeed of goodness instead of drama!!

With kind regards,


Biddy Jan 3, 2015 at 8:28 pm

The boys and the show is the only reason to visit Beefcakes JHB. Food in below standard, Steers makes better burgers and don’t even get me started on their over priced cocktails.

The Cape Town one is absolutely awesome in every way. JHB is but a shadow.

The attitude of the manager there, Jono Lawson was shocking. We had made telephone bookings for the venue, then confirmed via email as we were a big group. After we had finished, the bill had a charge of over R1000 that we questioned. At no point in any correspondence did anyone notify us of the charge for the show. We called for the manager and was absolutely humiliated and spoken to like we were stupid idiots. He swore and shouted like it was our fault. He refused to admit that they were in error. The one experience to Beefcakes was terrible.

I would not go about there ever and would not recommend it to anyone. I wonder if it he is still a manager there as this was around April 2014

Anyway Heather, at least you had the option of leaving before you got hit with an unexpected bill.

Johan Jan 3, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Beefcakes is a restaurant for a very specific group clientele. It is a show bar, so regardless of wether you are there for the show or not, you’ll need to pay for the show. Simple as that. Wether the cocktails were really as bad as you say is subject to your own perception. The people who go there regularly go for what they know well and enjoy. It’s a pity you didn’t enjoy your evening there. Perhaps under different conditions it could have been a great night out.

Jools Fourie Jan 3, 2015 at 9:52 pm

As a owner of a venue myself, I would not have went this route, But wpuld have specifically tried to make the stay of all clients as pleaserable as possible. St the end of the day, it is our clients that keeps the doors open!

Andrew Jan 4, 2015 at 2:06 am

You had a lucky escape, Beefcakes in CT is excellent both in terms of food and the shows, not sure if Jhb has the same owner but it is a pale imitation of the original. To your point about paying for the show they have always charged whether or not you eat and/or drink in both cities as they have to pay the boys in frocks for their time which I think is fair regardless of the number of patrons.

Andries Jan 4, 2015 at 4:40 am

In the hospitality industry, The same happens to single people. You are treated as a VIP customer during quiet times like winter, or week days, but the moment when business picks up, then your money (wich carried them through the dry season) is of less value.

It usually happens like this:

Sorry sir, you are only one person and our policy is a booking of minimum of two people.”

The restaurant and hospitality industry – shame on you ! Single people put money in your pocket, why make them go away to other places where they are treated fair ? Is the hospitality industry sincere and friendly, or ate they a bunch of greedy sharks ?

It’s not as if a bathroom needs more cleaning after two people used it in stead of one. One person uses less electricity and less water than two. Linnen must be washed, does not matter if one or two people used it. Two people most likely use only one parking spot anyway. Staff are on duty irrespective how many guests and does not get paid more if only one guest. In fact, staff can be deployed in other long overdue area’s of the maintenance or operations during a single person stay. A single person uses half of the towels as what two would have used. One person does not have two breakfast’s.

But still ONE must pay for TWO.

Try walking on your own, into a restaurant during an off season time.Then mr Single get the best table with the best view, service is good. But try to walk in during a busy time, then you get the table next to the cuppachino machine behind the till, right in the door and the trainee waiter who forgets about you. You get told that the same best table where you sat (and supported them during quiet months) is reserved for bookings of minimum four people. Then suddenly your money is not good enough in spite that you supported them through the off season when business was down. (And then the odasity to ask “is everthing in order sir ?”.

I can fully understand that a hotel on the beach prefer more people in one room because two people spend more money at the bar than one, two people order two meals in stead of one but why be so greedy to let the single customer pay double during quiet times when this single customer is about the only person at the establishment. Then mr Owner, it is $1 you did not have before, but in stead of thank you, you say that I must pay $2.

The hospitality industry should be ashamed. Why don’t restaurants, holiday destinations and hotel’s not rather be honest and put up signs “We are here to screw single people and we do not care a damn about you.”

It sucks. Why being financially punished for being single ?

Ettienne van der Merwe Jan 4, 2015 at 6:39 am

We were there that same night believe it or not! :-). Same story as you. Got there…ordered a drink then the big bad news about the R80.

The worst is is that I have already seen the show numerous times…and it doesnt change … same songs …same humor. (I wanted my bf to see the show for the first time).

I readily refused to pay. (not only did i see the show before, but also the show was only half as long; so why pay if the place is half full, and half a show!?? And for some reason they allowed us to stay. 🙂 🙂

riaan jacobs Jan 4, 2015 at 7:15 am

sad that Beefcakes are going this route, I will never visit them ever again, greed killed their once fabulous vibe.

Arno Hattingh Jan 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Had a similar experience at Beefcakes Cape Town where two unexpected items showed up on the bill. First was the drag show, which we weren’t informed of in any way, couldn’t see from the porch and most definitely couldn’t enjoy as the other patrons did. Second and worst was the waiter who offered our female friend a body shot since she was “most mischievous” of our croup of first-timers – needless to say, the seemingly friendly and promotional gesture showed up on the bill. Beefcakes might never see me again!

Nico Jan 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Definitely agree. Rather keep a place for atmosphere then an empty place with no atmosphere. Then one never know just maybe. …the place filled up as the time go. These type of places are better later at night.

Andreas Jan 5, 2015 at 6:54 am

That show is usually booked out for a month in advance… So yes I think they can afford to and besides,the show is there, you are watching it, why should you not have to pay for it because you don’t want to when everyone else does have to pay for it. You should not be excluded just because you don’t want to pay for it and its a quiet evening.

Russell Chowles Jan 5, 2015 at 8:45 am

Yes, I a few things to say:
1. You don’t say anything about you problems with the drinks being discussed with the barman. You both drank them but rather used this column to voice that problem. Do it at the venue sweetheart and don’t bitch here! That’s just a cheap shot- pun intended
2. You get paid to do your job I assume? So does the drag performer and guess what? Whether your backside was on a chair at a table or at the bar, the show was on and it was time to pay. You get paid for your work and so must the entertainer.
3. You were already unhappy – see your own comments about drinks – so why did you not leave then? I am sure your friends would have been found elsewhere. By your own admission it was quiet. Heard of a cell phone? Use it

I think it’s a very poor response to an evening you seemed to be unhappy about right from the start and you are using your “bad” experience as a scapegoat. Sorry honey – you just got epic fail for the above. Yes, the article sounds so gorgeous at the beginning and how fabulous your seemingly champagne lifestyle is – reality check! You just sound like a bored lady with an axe to grind.

Andrew Jan 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

Dear Heather

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experience at Beefcakes last Friday. We value all feedback and are always looking for ways to improve our offering and service.

Firstly, our drinks, usually well renowned, will be looked into immediately, and although a Martini is traditionally a smaller portioned cocktail, it should certainly be tasty, and the Mojito should be sour enough with the right amount of lemon and lime.

We do like to provide a varied and entertaining line up of shows each night of the week. As you can imagine, entertainers don’t come cheap, and although we subsidize their income, a portion of the cost is past on to the customer. While we try to keep this portion as low as possible, we do feel that the R80 per person is a truly fair price to pay for the entertainment on offer especially when you consider the cost of other entertainment options out there. I do however understand your point about the quietest week of the year in Joburg and this is definitely something we should look at in terms of perhaps offering a week long special so that both sides win.

I thank you again for the feedback, and would like to invite you back to Beefcakes for a complimentary round of cocktails!

Kind regards

Beefcakes Owner

    heatherhook Jan 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you Andrew. It was not the best evening, but I have had great times there before. Totally okay with paying for the show, and the R80 price is perfect, just possibly let people know when they enter or get seated, that upfront there is a cost, even if you are just having a drink.

    I will most certainly take you up on your offer in the near future. Thank you.

Louwrens du Plessi Jan 5, 2015 at 3:20 pm

I must say that from my point of view the bartender did his work exceptional. As I know how the hospitality industry struggles to keep everyone happy specially when it comes to rules and payment. You were more than welcome to go to any other place as you did. I personally enjoyed my time there and it was worth every cent we spent there I enjoyed my food, drinks and the entertainment and would recommend anyone who wants a night of fun and good times to go there no matter your age, race or sexuality.

Stoffel Jan 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm

I would with out a doubt have encouraged you to stay for dinner or more drinks without paying for the show. It’s exactly this arrogant attitude that is the precursor to the eventual closer of popular today restaurants. Leaves such a bad taste, but luckily with social media we as consumers can vote by sharing our experiences, and allowing others to make Informed decisions about where we would like to spend out hard earned cash. Thanks for sharing this. Big fail beefcakes JHB.

Gary Jan 5, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Very interesting opinion you have miss Hook,

but, luckily that is what it is, an opinion.

And before you roll your eyes or close this comment I would like to ask you one very simple question. Have you ever treated yourself to a movie at Ster Kinerkor or any other cinema for that matter? What movie was it, and did you enjoy it? Did you buy yourself a large slush puppy and large popcorn with smarties on the side? Well if the answer is yes, then unfortunately Heather, your argument is invalid.

You see, Beefcakes is a one of a kind restaurant. One that had exposure on international websites for tourists looking for a good 1950’s style party filled with feather boas, costume changes, wig changes and quite a few personality changes as well. These drag artists take years to perfect the their talent not even to mention the money and effort going into costumes, make-up, sound, lighting etc.

I am sure you can understand that even though it is their passion, they need to be compensated for their time, effort and energy. This is where the R80 “cover charge” comes in. These artists (Beefcakes have some of the best drag talent in the country and have even had international drag superstars on their stage) need to be paid.

This is where I come back to my question about the movies, have you ever gone to see a movie and there is hardly anyone in the theatre? Did management offer to give you the movie tickets free, as long as you buy a large slush puppy and popcorn? Or did you run out of the theatre as soon as you saw there were only 10 people and demand your money back?

I doubt it, you see, just like Ster Kinekor, the Drag Staff at Beefcakes put on a show, an experience and in return they ask a cover or entrance fee. And if no one pays for the show/movie? Where does that leave the entertainers?

So to conclude Miss Heather, we live in a country where freedom of speech is a human right, and therefor you are entitled to yours, as am I, and I feel that what you wrote is utter bullshit.

I have had the pleasure of working at Beefcakes as both waiter and Manager and it truly is an experience like no other and that is what the Beefcakes brand aims to do, but that can not be done if there are ignorant people out there not willing to pay for art.

I leave you with this quote:

“There’s a strange lack of knowledge about the role of drag queens in our culture. I attribute this to the appalling state of our country’s educational system. Others might blame an utter lack of interest. Who am I to judge?”
― Josh Kilmer-Purcell,

Russell Wightman Jan 6, 2015 at 11:40 am

If the show starts. Pay to watch.

Naddy Jan 6, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Heather – I commended for your constructive criticism around the hospitality you received on that evening – the most important thing is you created awareness and the establishment has responded – the voice of the customer is the most important 🙂
Pay little attention to the other hogwash being posted 🙂 infact some of these people should start their own blogs … XXX

David Jan 6, 2015 at 3:31 pm

There is a few comments here that can be considered serious and those that just blabber in defense of the owner, which wouldn’t surprise me if they had to all be his Facebook buddies. The complaint is clear and simple…it can not be anymore clearer! I’ve been there and experienced it hand on. Firstly the show, good show indeed they are rather entertaining. Finishing ur drinks, meals, bill arrives…boom R80 pp for the show?? At no point were we told of this additional charge, it just got added on the bill with no notification, neither could I recall taking note of a signage board that said u had to pay R80 for the show…that’s robbing the consumer as per the consumer law. Secondly, if you going to pay R75 and more for a burger it better be gourmet…mine wasn’t this at all. Perhaps the food quality might have improved, I wouldn’t know since I’ve sworn not to return there again. I think it’s a franchise with great potential, but look after your clientele.

JoziStyle Jan 7, 2015 at 11:59 am

Considering the circumstances, Beefcakes would have benefitted had they used their discretion to waive the fee considering your party would have spent considerably more on money on food and drinks. Had they made it an optional fee if you enjoyed the show you may even had paid the R80 / person out of good spirit. The performer was still going to perform regardless if there were 2 or 202 guests. Had it been a packed evening then they would have had the upper hand dictating if the performer’s fee was compulsory or optional.

Kudos to the owner of Beefcakes, Andrew, for addressing this review in a constructive way. We understand that the hospitality industry is subject to both good and bad days but ultimately it is how they address issues that determines if people continue to support them. And take Andrew up on his offer for complimentary cocktails!

    heatherhook Jan 8, 2015 at 6:13 am

    I couldn’t agree more on both points, but yes I most certainly will take them up on their offer, and quite happy to pay, now that we know the price in advance 🙂

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    Heather Hook May 3, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Hi There. I think that is quite a broad topic, and certainly one that I don’t feel I can do justice to on this platform. Personally, as an ex-waitress, I do my very best to tip appropriate to the service I have received, outstanding receive more, not so outstanding receive less. Each country also has its own tipping rules, and some travellers may not be aware of that, so possibly that could also influence tipping. There are many other reasons as well.

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