Posted on: September 20, 2017
Rescue 71 years of restaurant history and create a dike against the Nutella-sation of the the Red Light District. Today (15-19-2017), Spanish Restaurant Centra Amsterdam reopens its doors at the Lange Niezel in the Red Light District.
A club; that’s what it had to be. Laurens Nette and Thijs van Onna, started off young with their hospitality plans. “We were 12, 13 years old, but it was the only thing we were talking about.” Also in the classroom: Thomas Injo, but more on later. The club had to wait a little while. “Try starting a hospitality business when you’re 19, 20 years old,” says van Onna (33). “But I was always technical, so we started together as two cute guys who rented out DJ equipment.” They added lighting equipment, audio/ video production and the technical production of events. But also a sound studio on the Singel and a shop on the Zeedijk. It brought the duo to all the establishments in town, from the Jimmy Woo to Paradiso. “And I was always looking around: that’s fun, I’d do that differently.” And they did. “We could start a bar with a couple of friends for three months, the Kopstootbar.” (Head bud bar.)
And who gave a staff party there? Former classmate Thomas Injo, who in the meantime had also become active in the hospitality industry with the widely active collective “Hotmamahot”. Last year they started a restaurant together, Dum Dum Palace on the Zeedijk. And now Restaurant Centra Amsterdam. This restaurant is ‘luggage of 10, 15 years of working in the hospitality industry’. “Everywhere we picked up ideas,” says van Onna. “It’s a collage of what we like.” They prefer not to talk about the old restaurant Centra Amsterdam. “It was different restaurant, from another time.
I always find it painful to see a business that was once successful not operating anymore, I know how much energy goes into it.” Nette: “The old Centra had its name, its appearance, but the new restaurant must also fit with our styles and tastes. Centra had a large clientele, we‘ve already had questions: is the old furniture still there? But that’s the Centra of the past, we want a Centra of today. Certainly, there will be old guests who won’t like the new. ”
“Actually, we do the same as in Dum Dum: dishes that you share with each-other, only this time Spanish. No tapas, we do not want that snacking from small bowls, but full-bodied dishes that you can combine with others.” “In Catalonia, you have xampanyerias, with those fluorescent lighting bars and wooden tables, a bit like the old Centra. Over there garbage collectors enter at twelve in the afternoon and drink a bottle of Cava. That’s what we want, but in a way that fits with Amsterdam.” “In our location there could have been the umpteenth steakhouse or convenience store,” says van Onna. “I think it’s important to recapture the city center, which is becoming less fun for Amsterdammers.
I often have conversations about this with commercial landlords. If you can upgrade a neighbourhood with beautiful, varied business, I think it will be a more profitable for them too in the long run.” Nette: “You see that in East and the Old West part of Amsterdam, what variation means for a neighbourhood, but the Red Light District should retain its rough edges, with coffee shops and prostitutes.” The fact that locals see this area as a continuous tourist trap is a risk for a brand new restaurant, he acknowledges. “But we are not the only ones here, restaurants like Mata Hari, Quartier Putain or Cannibal Royale think the same. The word has to spread. That’s what worked out well with Dum Dum, with 80, 90 percent of the visitors being locals.” Van Onna: “With all our companies combined, we now easily make a 100 hour work week each. As long as I get energy from what I do I can continue. entrepreneurship does not just have to bring financial succes.”