In Protest, Oldest Amsterdam Gay Bar Adopts New Name - Ikea

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 21, 2021

The new owners of Amsterdam's oldest gay bar have made a surprising change: The sign that used to read "Spijkerbar" now sports the name and logo of the furniture store Ikea.

Spijkerbar first opened in 1978, Euronews reported. Steven Koudijs bought the bar last March with Tomas Adamer. Unluckily, the purchase was just before the establishment had to shut down due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.

The new owners had intended to start on April 1, Koudijis told Euronews, but the lockdown went into effect in mid-March, with the purchase contract specifying the date of their acquisition as March 1. "This is also when the lease for this place started," Koudijis said. "Since then, costs are coming in," including additional expenses to remodel the establishment, an improvement the new owners decided to undertake since the bar had to be closed anyway.

The COVID restrictions eased somewhat for the summer months and into the fall, allowing the bar to operate with limited patrons. Approval for an expansion to the outdoor terrace helped somewhat. But then a new lockdown came into effect.

With fixed expenses for the bar running as high as 12,000 (a little over $14,500) per month, the closure has posed a financial strain on the new owners. A crowdfunding appeal helped to raised some funds, but Koudijs and Adamer decided to take an extra step: They covered the bar's sign with the Ikea placard as way, Koudijis said, to point up what he saw as a fundamental inequality to how the lockdown was applied.

"When we put up the sign, only the hospitality industry was closed," he told Euronews. "Large stores like IKEA were open, with numerous customers without any distance.

"I don't disapprove of the owners, but if you think a lockdown works, then it has to apply to everyone."

But that's already the case, argued city spokesperson Eva Plijter. "All non-essential shops are closed, so is IKEA. The renaming of a caf does not warrant opening under lockdown orders from the government."

Plijner pointed out that the bar could sell take-away food, but that, Koudijis said, is not what the bar is about.

"Our guests come to us for the contacts, to have a beer and play pool," he told Euronews. "The Spijkerbar is their living room and coming here is a big part of their social life."

Koudijis went on to make an impassioned plea about why the bar is so special to himself and others in Amsterdam.

"Since 1978, this bar has been a symbol of freedom," he said. "Here, canal boat owners, artists, and prostitutes come together and everyone has the freedom to be what they want to be, without fear of exclusion, judgment, or rejection.

"Now I wish for the freedom to continue this tradition."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.