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PLACEText: Ania Markham

It’s not often people sit in front of you beaming from ear to ear during their whole interview so I think it is pretty fair to say the owners of Amsterdam’s BitterZoet are extremely happy. And so they should be. Having reached its 1st birthday in such style, BitterZoet continues to enjoy its popular and much respected position within the city’s nightlife venues. I managed to pin down two of the owners Nica de Bloeme and Pieter de Kroon to talk to us about their success.

How would you describe BitterZoet?

Nica: It’s a combination of bar/live music venue with a multimedia theatre upstairs. We have a regular rosta of live music, exhibitions and performances. The underlying concept really is to provide people with a good night out. Nothing to do with who’s there or what they’re wearing, just a genuinely goodtime. We also don’t operate a door policy and make sure we keep our bar prices reasonable. Our music policy is wide encompassing all sorts of genres, for example, jazz, reggae, Brazilian, rock, electro, hip hop. We just wanted to fill a gap in Amsterdam and do something new. We felt this was the thing missing.

How did it all start?

Pieter: Well, the four of us found each other (Nica, myself and also Joris Bakker and Remko Struyck) -I suppose we were all in the right place at the right time. Different business backgrounds but the same idea of what sort of venue we wanted to create. A meeting of minds. We all met and that was it, we knew we could make it work. And here we are and it’s great.

Nica: Yeah, we all jointly run BitterZoet and it’s very relaxed and easygoing. That’s the culture of the company. Did you know we still have the same bar staff as the first night we opened? No one has wanted to leave in 12 months and that makes us really happy. The whole experience of the 4 of us working together to make BitterZoet what it is now has been amazing. We really love it.

Tell me more about what goes on here?

Pieter: Apart from the main bar area downstairs we also have a fully equipped multimedia theatre upstairs which seats 96 people. Next week we’ve got qualifying rounds of the National Breakdancing Championships but we also have regular theatre performances, cabaret, stand-up and dance. We’ve got a multimedia installation ‘The Castle Of Kafka’ starting here on 12th April which will last for 3 weeks.

Nica: The idea is to attract people who wouldn’t normally think about going to the theatre. I mean, the theatre can be so stiff – you can’t go to the toilet because the whole row has to get up… We want to break those rules and try new things.

Pieter: Downstairs, the emphasis is completely on the music and we have resident nights featuring some great live music. Thursdays are good as they’re Blue Note nights – proper Jazz nights and an opportunity for the label to showcase its current artists. Weekends are usually dance nights with any kind of music you can dance to and Sundays tend to be a bit more relaxed – our new Sutra Funk night is becoming really popular.

Plans for the future?

Nica: To keep the quality consistent and keep our audiences happy – that’s the most important thing. We’re also currently working on a nice 3 month rotational resident artist thing which we’re doing with Levis. At the moment we’ve got the man behind Rockwell clothing label, Piet Parra (an Amsterdam based graphic designer and illustrator). We did a special opening night exhibiting his work in BitterZoet and we also created posters from his designs for our monthly agenda to place around Amsterdam.

Pieter: So our plans for the future are to keep going with what we’re doing and keep the standards high. We’ve met so many nice people and so many different people doing cool things. They support us and we want to continue supporting them. We’re just proud to be a part of this.

Address: 2 Spuistraat, Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 521 3001

Text: Ania Markham
Photos: Mark Visser

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