How regulars lost their living room with the closure of cafés

Two weeks ago, the night curvey was implemented to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus. For many people this meant a halt to their social lives. Yet, for regulars this already happened four months ago, when the cafés closed and they lost their place to socialize. 

Many people miss it: going for a beer or a coffee in a bar or café. It’s a nice getaway from your daily life. But, what if that visit has become part of your daily routine? What is it like to lose your habitual haunt due to the coronameasures?  

The empty bar in the Minnaar (picture by Denise Overkleeft)

It happened to Keimpe, a regular guest of café the Minnaar, a café just outside the canals of Groningen. “A beer at the Minnaar was a ritual for me: part of walking my dogs,” Keimpe says. He used to go there around four times per week for over twelve years. 

Like Keimpe, there are many others who have lost their living room with the closure of local bars and cafés. Their place to relax, have fun and discuss personal issues has been taken away from them. 

“I mostly miss the conversations: about the passing away of someone’s mother, about politics, about society. We talk about everything”, Keimpe says. It’s the casual openness of the café that he appreciates the most. “The Minnaar has an Italian village ambience. Only the Jeu de Boules court is missing.” 

And now, Keimpe also has to miss the drinks. “Before the pandemic, I never had beers at home,” Keimpe explains. He would just go to the Minnaar if he was in the mood for one. Now he makes sure he has two or three beers at home. “Not too many, because I am a bit sensitive to that.”

Also the people working in the cafés miss the interaction with their guests. Floris and Larissa Brummel-van Duuren took over the Minnaar from the previous owner in October. “We have only been open for two weeks,” Larissa says. “We don’t even know some regulars, we worry about that.” 

Floris and Larissa use the lockdown to do some renovations. But, it doesn’t really go fast, because they often receive visits from curious regulars, passing by to see how their Minnaar is doing. “Then we talk a bit or we give a sneak-preview, it’s nice to get to know them,” Larissa says. But they shouldn’t come all at the same time: “Sometimes it’s so busy that it looks like we are open.”

Keimpe also sometimes comes by. Last week, he and Henk, another regular, bought a beer at a nearby snackbar and sat down on the terrace of the Minnaar. “It’s so nice to just sit there, even when it’s closed,” Keimpe says.

Meanwhile, Floris and Larissa try to make the Minnaar even cozier. They want to create a living room café at a prime location. “Look, we built a new game cabinet and I redecorated the wall,” Larissa says while she points at a broken mirror. “But we are also afraid: what if we change too much at once and the regulars don’t come back?”

The Minnaar under construction (Photo: Denise Overkleeft)

That’s no problem according to Keimpe: “the people and the atmosphere are what makes the Minnaar such a beautiful place.” In fact, he thinks that it’s going to be even more popular, which is what Keimpe does worry about. “Maybe I won’t be able to find a spot anymore, that would be a pity.”

Now that the lockdown has been extended until March, it is uncertain when the Minnaar can open its doors again. But, Larissa keeps her hopes high: “I am waiting for the guests with the vaccine still in their arms to come and get a beer.”

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