Hundreds of well-wishers and revelers gathered at Bissap Baobab this weekend eager to dance their farewell to the Senegalese nightclub at its final party after 20 years in business. Owner Marco Senghor announced his plans to sell Bissap Baobab and its building on 19th Street in February as he struggled to cover his legal bills in an immigration battle that’s overshadowed his business. Now the sale’s gone through and the club has closed for good.
Last month, Senghor took a plea deal in the case, pleading guilty to making false claims in his US citizenship application. The restaurant operator, who is originally from Senegal, said he lived with a woman whom he later legally married, but they actually hadn’t met until the ceremony, according to prosecutors, and they never lived together afterward. Eventually they were divorced.
Senghor sold Bissap Baobab’s space at 3372 19th Street to the owner of Excelsior empanadas maker El Porteño Chifa Peruana. But Baobab’s presence isn’t gone on 19th Street, just diminished: Little Baobab, the smaller, neighboring restaurant space at 3386 19th (out of which the larger Bissap Baobab grew) will remain in place.
“Little Baobab is excited to take over and will face the challenge to embrace all our patrons in a much smaller size,” says Senghor, “so we will open longer time and we will add a patio out there.”
Longer hours and space outside will help, but the petite Little Baobab is not without its own charms, including a kitchen producing delicious Senegalese food like mafe (peanut stew). “The coziness is fantastic and every one fell in love with the rejuvenated decor,” says Senghor.
A line of 850 people formed at Bissap Baobab on Saturday night, Senghor estimates, and it never dissipated. “Every one wanted to give respect to a legacy community establishment... Every one was sad.”