Tasting cafe 1988–1998
By Riny Reiken
During the renovation of the Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk, I worked on a new business plan, and applied for a subsidy for young entrepreneurs.
During this process, I kept my Winkel van Sinkel open during weekends, and managed with two other part-time jobs on the side: at the men's department of Peek & Cloppenburg clothing store and at Lucky Leder in the Kalverstraat, selling sofa’s.
Since I had never tapped a beer, it would be useful to get some experience in a bar. In an ad in the Telegraaf newspaper a bar keeping job was available, and the bar was located near the Warmoesstraat. This was an unexpected opportunity, so I rushed to make an appointment. After they let me in through a door with a peephole, the barman asked: ‘Would you like a beer or wine?’ It turned out to be a topless bar. I left, shocked, and decided to observe the craft in other tasting bars.
Within a year, my little shop was converted into a gorgeous tasting Old Dutch tasting café. The opening was held July 27, 1988. It had to be a place where I felt home: No loud music, no slot machines, yet cultural events, and friendly people. The café, located in the heart of the red light district offered quite some challenges. In those times a lot of pimps and drug addicts were still dealing in the neighborhood
In the beginning, people in the area were trying me out. Like when I hired a barman. This man had a lot of experience. He gladly would like to help me, this 'young lady'. During his shift, he drank a lot of jenever. Some clients even already gave a tip beforehand, which made me very suspicious. Working in a bar turned out to be pretty tough, and the atmosphere changed; as if clients were trying to make their private club out of the Olofspoort. Still, I made clear what was accepted or not I my tasting café.
I had tolerated the barman for some time, until I had enough of him, and fired him on the spot. To dismay of my (then) husband Jan Koops. The two men were friends. Jan, who also was drinking too much, had to choose: to support me or to leave. Initially, he chose to support me.
When he joined me behind the bar to make up for the damage, it meant the end of his career as a salesman of thermopane double glass windows.
Jan had a smooth talk, and many clients liked his stories. Koops had had all kinds of professions: one time he had been a bridge builder, or an architect, whatever suited the conversation, especially when female beauties were listening. Every so often they would ask me the next day if the 'gynecologist' or the 'professor-doctor' would also be present behind the bar that evening. Gradually, I realized he was a castle builder, especially about his travels.
Now and then clients ask about Jan, and start telling his fantasy stories, reminding me of him and wondering how I have been able to put up with him for such a long time.
Jan had three children from two previous marriages. After their mother had passed away, I got the responsibility to take care of them during weekends, while their father was out and about (Is my tie, my jacket looking good?) And then he went out drinking with his pals in the cafes.
He left me in the café by myself, to my fate. Sometimes he would come back after a few days, swearing he would never drink again. Deep in my heart, I felt compassion for him (not for myself).
Until I had an accident, woke up in the hospital, and unexpectedly had time to think it all over. For the first time I realized that life can be over in a few seconds, and so I found the courage to say farewell to him.
Some disagreed with my decision, there were threats from people in the neighborhood. It must have been a shock to a lot of guests that from now on I made the decision in my personal life. Many people thought Jan was the owner of the cafe or that he had bought it for me. So he told them (and that I was his secretary as well).
Yes, we laughed. Yet behind the scenes, I cried a lot. I left it all behind and started again. Hopefully, Jan has found a proper place on the other side.
Joyful, he used to sing: ‘In heaven there's no beer'.
Barman Bas 1998–2013
When Bas Bouman - an adventurer from the province of Brabant - left for Amsterdam, his mother Bep asked what he was looking for in the city of ‘Sodom and Gomorra’. Later though, Bep herself would enjoy the visits to her son in his Bar-A-Bas in the heart of Mokum and even took father Kees along.
After Bas had sold his Bar-A-Bas on the Zeedijk and visited In de Olofspoort in 1998 for the first time, the fuse box broke and we were sitting in the dark. Bas first repaired the electricity system, then he became the barkeeper who made liquors. He invented delicious recipes, like ‘Burgerlijk Standje’(Dutch pun),’Halleluja’, ‘Kiss me quick’ and other tasty romantic drinks. Bas' creativity knew no limits.
We enjoyed our visits to different distillers, our collection of jenevers and liqueurs grew. We kept busy with tasting gatherings in our basement till after midnight. Above all, we were open seven days a week, the business reached its top. Mutual acquaintances and friends met each other regularly at the Olofspoort café.
After one year of working together, a spark went off, we started a relationship and then got married October 30, 2003 in the Stopera. After the ceremony, we sailed with our guests in a canal boat along the Amstel to the heart of the city. There, our union was blessed in the cloister of the Augustinian sisters. At the party with family and friends, I sang Ständchen by Franz Schubert.
Some years ago Bas had to transfer his work to someone else. On his 70th birthday, he formally said goodbye to the tasting bar and his working life.
Now he enjoys – shortly single – his well-earned free time: ‘I am happy that I have got my rest!’