The White Horse bar, or brand at least, is old, dating back to colonial days. Generations of people have gone through that bar, wherever it is, drank with mates, met biological mates, gotten in fights, destroyed the furniture, again and again. The White Horse of today is actually a sterile office of a building turned into a bar, but it’s still the spot for underage drinking in the CMB. The old White Horse was somewhat the same, for another generation, but it had a bit more history and style.
On YAMU we’ve got two perspectives, from two generations. Here’s what Shru wrote about the current Horse:
However brilliant Original White Horse may have been, there’s still much to say about the present. Like the White Horse before it, so many of us spent so much of our adolescence drinking and laughing amidst its smoky, indigo walls.
There were raids and there were rumours. I remember a tuition teacher once saying “Don’t go there! They spray something into the air that gets you high!” and there was that night where the police stormed in and took away everyone who didn’t have legit ID – about 60% of the crowd.
White Horse has always been a playground for Colombo’s underage, bright young things. It’s also been a playground for Colombo’s not-so-bright things. Which probably explains why the occasional fight breaks out: the big bundied, arrack drinking men in the corner toss a few lewd comments at the girls whose male counterparts then indignantly intervene for their honour…you know how the rest goes. (White Horse Inn)
And here’s relative old timer Savan on the Olde.
It was another world where nothing was forbidden and even today’s hollow threat of ID checks was inconceivable. In the midst of major brawls I remember the armed soldiers posted along the street standing stock still mumbling that their job was to stop terrorist bombs and not intervene in drunken brawls.
At that time in a 90s Colombo rent by the odd suicide bomb and governed by a weak and, above all, careless government, anything went. More so even than today and the inside of the White Horse on a weekend at 1 am was really the bottled spirit of that era. A time where regulation was non-existant and the party crowd was small but utterly committed – undiluted by mass participation. (White Horse (1998-2000))
And yo, Blacker, we’d like a review from you, the oldest timer we know. But here’s something from the extremely latter days:
Arthur Edward also owned the White Horse Hotel on Chatham Street, Colombo and the Globe Hotel, also on Chatham Street in those days and for which a seductively dream-like advertisement typical of its time depicts a three-storied building with green shutters and red-tiled roof suspended within a glassy globe in a blue sky surrounded by creamy-white clouds! In Great Days, the veteran government medical officer Dr. P.R.C. Peterson recalled from the 1920s how a then-legendary Sinhalese character known as Maduwanwela Disawe (1844-1930) would travel to Colombo on occasion and stay at the Globe Hotel, insisting with feudal largesse on buying everyone present drinks until not a one was left standing. Dr. Peterson himself recalled how, in the heady years just before the 1914-18 War, freshers at the Ceylon Medical College traditionally treated their thirty-odd older fellow students to a slap-up meal at the White Horse Hotel. (Those were the days, judging by the tariff printed on the back of a 1920s postcard featuring a photograph of the Globe Hotel, when dinner could be bought at a first-class Colombo hotel for Rs. 2.50, the same price as a single room for the night). (RootsWeb)
Me? I’ve never been to the old White Horse. It sounds nice. The current White is honestly a weird office building and has nothing much to recommend itself architecturally, but it’s one of the few places where the bartenders are politely inattentive and – on a good night – it used to be so insanely packed that it was like a high school cafeteria, with booze. Now the crowd seems to gravitate more towards the technically superior O! Bar, but there’s still something about the spirit of the White.