How can Cologne’s two banks of the Rhine be made more attractive with additional gastronomic offers? The city council’s urban development committee entrusted the administration with the task of examining dies ten years ago. So far nothing has happened, says Jörg Beste, managing director of the Architekturforum Rheinland (AFR).
So that it doesn’t stay that way, the Forum and the House of Architecture Cologne (hdak) are organizing a double event with the title “Potentials for Gastronomy on the River in Cologne”: During a bicycle excursion, in which around 20 interested people took part, they possibly went to places on right bank of the Rhine. The topic was discussed further in an online seminar. It turned out that it is all different than simple to use the public space for outdoor catering, whether a beer garden set, a pop-up café, a coffee mobile or a food truck – a restaurant on wheels – is set up for a while shall be.
Urban space should offer places of experience
Both the start and end point of the bike tour are among the places that the urban development committee suggested at the time, among others. On the one hand, there is an area above the Deutzer Werft fairground, which used to be a gas station, and on the other, the slag mine on Stammheimer Ufer, which looks like an arcade bridge and served as a loading station for the Felten & Guilleaume cable factory.
As on the area on Siegburger Strasse, participants were also able to see how the properties are currently being used on Charles-de-Gaulle-Platz north of the Hohenzollern Bridge and on the Mülheimer Festplatz: “Obviously, parking is always possible in Cologne,” says Jörg Beste added and summed up what he imagined as an alternative: “Gastromobil on the Rhine instead of tourist buses, tar surfaces and dreariness.”
It is about “connecting the Rhine as their living space more with the city and citizens, finding places to experience there and using various gastronomic concepts in a positive way”. The selection of adjectives with which Beste describes the project include “innovative”, “low threshold”, “simple” and “temporary”. First, new concepts should be tried out for permanent, permanent facilities.
Pragmatic solutions for permits
In the seminar, the AFR managing director also brought a place on the left bank of the Rhine into play that the urban development committee had named as a matter of urgency: the urban property at the Oberland shipyard (Gustav-Heinemann-Ufer) north of the Schönhauser Straße stop, between the pumping station and the railway bridge. Participants in the tour and the online exchange included Till Riekenbrauk, chairman of IG Kölner Gastro, who runs the Johann Schäfer brewery in the southern part of the city with his business partner Thomas Borninkhof and who opened a beer garden in the southernmost part of the Rheinauhafen in summer 2020.
The beer garden is “very well received”, he said, “the people of Cologne are looking for such places”. From experience in the industry, he knows that it is like a “tough game of ping-pong” to get a permit for outdoor catering. The mandate of politics to the administration has been for a long time; Now it is important to find “pragmatic solutions”. He would like to see a “task force” on the urban side, in which the authorities “come together on a small official channel”, such as the city planning, building supervision and green space offices.
Narrow design options for outdoor catering
The central contact point for gastronomy, which was set up in September 2020 in the public order office, serves precisely the purpose of finding “pragmatic solutions”. She offers advice on difficult licensing procedures under catering law and the implementation of individual concept proposals. Jutta Schiweck-Nitsche, one of the three “Gastrokümmer”, encouraged to submit applications; this can “simplify the preliminary check” of the contact point. However, she gave reason to think that the design manual of the city of Cologne set narrow limits, even if exceptions were made for the time of the corona pandemic to support the starving restaurant industry.
The manual stipulates that outdoor catering may only be created in public spaces where there is already a “place of performance”, that is, indoor catering. In addition, there are the provisions of the Catering Act. In any case, numerous interests must always be brought into harmony in public cases – when applying for a new outdoor restaurant, for example when & among other things, the fire brigade, police, the office for road and traffic development and the city planning office are involved.
In addition, a building permit is required for larger outdoor catering areas. An example of a recent conflict of interest is the lawsuit brought by a noise-sensitive resident against the temporary amusement park “Happy Cologne” at the Deutz shipyard. The desire for more outdoor catering on the banks of the Rhine can also be brought to politicians, recommended Schiweck-Nitsche.
In his résumé, Beste said that a design manual is needed that is “flexible” and can be adapted to “the demands we have on public space”.