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The Barderij is baby-booming

by Vincent van der Kraan in Nightlife & Reports , 17 april 2003

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

For the last 25 years babyboomers have shown to be capable of adapting to each and every passing trend, “Disco,” “Leather,” “House,” “Party Drugs,” "Gym,” “The net.” But no matter how cool, also babyboomers love to take a stroll now and then down memory lane. Since a year and a half they can do so at the Amsterdam Zeedijk nr. 14, where café the Barderij has opened its doors for those proudly over fifty, who’re as passionate about the past as about the future. Owners Paul Carels (51) and Gerard Smitskam (55) are both originally from The Hague. Gerard moved to Florida some thirty years ago, where he started his own catering business and Paul began his catering career with Guus & Gerard of the Boko and then worked at Lola’s Place, both in The Hague, and later in Amsterdam at the Monopole, the Amstel Taveerne and with Manfred Langer in Chez Manfred and the IT.

On his yearly visits to his family, Gerard used to stay with Paul in Amsterdam. Paul toyed with the idea to move and live with Gerard in Florida, while Gerard dreamed of returning to Holland again. One day Gerard got an excited phone call from Paul, who told him he’d found the place they’d both been dreaming of and that he might wanna get his cute ass right away over here.

What was in this building before? It looks like it’s been in the catering business for at least one hundred years!

"First it was a French restaurant and before that the well-known Portugese restaurant Lucitania. Before that it housed the nightclub Williams for years. The Zeedijk is one of the oldest locations in Amsterdam, and though meanwhile it has become one of the city’s hot spots, many of the the original residents of some sixty years ago are still living here. Meanwhile many of these original residents have become our regular customers."
The Zeedijk has always been very gay friendly. Before, during and after the war we had the first out and open gay bar here, Het Mandje, run by the motor riding dike Bet van Beeren, who used to cut off the ties of her customers to decorate her ceiling with. That the local residents have chosen Paul and Gerard’s Barderij as their favourite hang out spot is for both of them a dream come true, since they always wanted a bar where gays and straights were equally represented, where artists side up with locals, where everything goes and having a good time together is the only slogan. Paul and Gerard pride themselves in knowing their clients by their name, which they see of prime importance in customer relations. Coupled with a sincere effort to make everybody in the place feel really at home.

How about the big clean up of the Zeedijk? Is that a success?

"The Zeedijk has turned into a top location. House prices have simply boomed. We still have some junkies, but they belong to the older ones who’ve been here for over twenty five years and don’t hurt anyone. We see a lot of tourists strolling from the Central Station onto the Zeedijk, who after some twenty metres walk into this cozy old Amsterdam café of ours. And when we have a drag queen working behind the bar, they for sure come back every day they are in Amsterdam. And tell their friends to come here when they’re visiting Amsterdam."

One of the corners in your bar is called the Tickle Garden (Kieteltuin). Why?

"One of our regular customers, a local, walked straight to the back, to that little room looking out on the sluice. 'This used to be the Kieteltuin,' she exclaimed. We’ve never been able to trace where that name comes from, but probably many prostitutes before the war came here to fool around with their clients in that little corner. In summer it’s a favourite spot with tourists, since they have a direct view on the sluice down below, one of the hardest corners for passing ships, which makes for a lot of racket by pleasure boatsmen and their wives trying to manoeuver their vessels. And since as we in Holland say ‘the best helsmen are ashore,’ sluice gazing makes for a lot of fun over here."

What about Karaoke?

"We don’t do it, but we do have open mikes for customers who wanna sing along. We also have a piano and if there are customers who like to play, they just do it and we turn the music down right away. Some of them play the piano brilliantly and soon have the whole joint singing along. Just to meet other people for a chat in a café is something that has become lost in the gay catering industry. Discos and darkrooms aren’t designed for chatting about this, that and the other. But here we give it a wide berth."

How did you come up with the name, the Barderij?

"We thought of ‘boerenjongens’ (peasant boys), the typical old Amsterdam brew of gin and raisins. Boerenjongens, boerderij (farm) made Paul say 'Barderij' and Gerard say 'Yes, that’s it!’ It’s a word that doesn’t exist and that’s the fun of it.

It’s sunday afternoon and the place starts filling up. When we leave we have to make our way through a friendly crowd who all seem concerned about me making it home save. It warms my heart!

Café De Barderij
Zeedijk 14
1012 AX Amsterdam
Open daily: 12.00– 01.00 hrs.
Fr-Sa 12.00–03.00 hrs.
Tel: (020) 4205132



In the New Issue of Gay News, 323, July 2018

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