Gandalf’s going greeted with grey moods

British actor, Sir Ian Mckellen, who played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, is pictured outside Gandalfs club in Observatory in 2008 while filming Prisoners. The alternative club, a second home to some and a bane to others, closed its doors earlier in the month after 18 years.

The punks, the rockers, the metalheads and the goths… they all once found a home at Gandalf’s which recently closed its doors for the last time after 18 years in business.

One of the city’s few remaining alternative music venues, the club had been situated in Lower Main Road, Observatory – and one upon a time, Gandalf the Grey himself was photographed outside the venue when Sir Ian McKellen, who played the wizard in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, was in town.

Antonio Manuel Hendricks, who opened the venue in the early 2000s, said he made the tough decision to close the club after the owner of the building had decided to sell.

After consultation with his wife, Antonio decided not to fight it and he and his wife began planning their last parties before closure.

Over the years local bands like Mind Assault, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, Half Price – and one of Antonio’s favourite local bands, Hog Hoggity Hog – have performed on the Gandalf’s stage.

But it hasn’t been a bed of roses.

With the club attracting an alternative crowd, more conservative members of the community raised their fears that witchcraft and satanic rituals were being performed at the club and complained that skater kids and punk rockers were spray-painting graffiti on the walls.

Based on some of the risqué outfits of the goth girls and transgender people who frequented the club, some of the residents even questioned whether a brothel was being run from there.

Rather than letting these challenges get him down, Antonio decided to get involved in keeping the part of Observatory he operated in, clean and crime-free.

Now that the club has closed, he looks back with fondness on the memories made there, among them meeting members of local bands – and his wife Simone.

As a DJ, he also got to be a part of the electricity on the dancefloor.

And as the dust settled on Gandalf’s closure at the beginning of the month, fans took to Facebook to share their memories of many a night spent at the club.

“Thank you for the memories and the friends I now have in my life. I would still be the timid, shy girl if it wasn’t for Gandalf’s,” wrote Charmian Storm Kitching.

“I didn’t ever imagine saying goodbye to a venue would be so sad, but Gandalf’s has been much more than just that to us with a life of its own, the heart and soul of Cape Town’s underworld wept, as tears streamed down the walls on Saturday night,” said Linda Evermore.

“I am at a loss for words… and a particular corner at this particular venue that had become the safe harbour in the stormy world out there… and the many souls I have met along the way… thank you so much for being my mental refuge for so many years,” wrote Isaac Morkel.

But Antonio is not planning on settling down just yet. As the owner of Trenchtown pub and restaurant, also in Observatory, he has more than enough to keep him busy.