It can hardly be more Amsterdam: a carpet on the table, a whistle Amstel and the name of the pub in curly letters on the window. Still, the traditional brown pub is having a hard time. More and more pubs are closing their doors. And that the pub has traditionally played an important neighborhood function. “You don’t have many bars like this anymore. I have keys from demented people, who come here when they get lost.”
Today the first edition of the Dag van de Bruine Kroeg takes place in Amsterdam. “We wanted to put the brown pub in the spotlight a bit,” says organizer Tim Blank. “The brown pub has had a hard time in recent years. The public is outdated and has left the city. The smoking ban has left many people away and now you see that energy and grain prices are rising again.”
Bea Smit-Servais of café Hermes on the Ceintuurbaan adds: “I think we have lost about 300 regulars in the last three years. They have died, are in a care home, or have started living with their children. And you really miss them. she says.
Jeroen Slot, data scientist at the Municipality of Amsterdam, states that the number of cafés in the city has decreased by about a quarter over the past twelve years. According to him, the decline is even stronger for brown bars.
Koninklijke Horeca Nederland Amsterdam also sees that brown bars are having a hard time. “We see that pubs in Amsterdam are under pressure,” says one said. “Most often are often in buildings with high rents and lovers often drink. And of course the staff shortages and high energy costs also affect the sector.”
What is a brown pub?
Everyone has an idea of what a brown pub is, but there is no clear definition according to brown pubs expert Willem Pijffers. His definition is this:
1. A limited number of beers on tap and a few gins
2. Few snacks on the menu. “You can be happy with a bowl of peanuts and there should actually be an egg on the counter.”
3. Regulars at a regular table. “When you first walk in somewhere, there’s really got to be a couple of heads turning and thinking, ‘Who is that?’ “
4. A landlord who knows his guests and makes the café what it is
The brown pub has an important function in the neighbourhood. “Because I’ve been coming here for so long, I know everyone,” says Jurgen, who is leaving again tomorrow for a few months at sea. “It’s a kind of living room. And that’s the beauty of a brown cafe: they are always small living rooms.”
Despite the activities, Pijffers thinks that the brown bar is on the rise among young people. “I do see that more young people are finding their way to the pub and seeing what there is to experience. It is a bit like a football match: sometimes you have a nice or surprising evening, and sometimes it is less,” says he.
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