The Old Town backlash is well under way

Well that didn’t take long.

It’s only, what, five years (?) since Bucharest’s Old Town area – which had been dormant for decades – became the city’s central entertainment district, but that’s more than enough for the backlash to have begun.

Pro TV ran a story last week proclaiming the death of Lipscani: Falimentul Centrului Vechi (The Bankruptcy of the Old Town) they called it, adding that far from being party central, the area had been transformed into ‘poverty central.’ Apparently, the kids are now partying on Calea Victoriei, in Herastrau, in Piata Amzei and on Bulevardul Decebal.

Are they bollocks. There are of course venues in those locations, but then there always have been. They cater to very different markets than the Old Town. No, as usual, As usual, Pro TV are making the facts fit the story rather than the other way around. In doing so they are betraying the fact that they know fuck all.

Pro TV‘s entire argument – if you can call it that – appears to be based on the fact that large numbers of venues open and close each year: almost 100 annually, the report suggests.

We do not dispute the numbers: we know better than just about anyone else in Bucharest how many venues open and close in this city: it is what earns us a living. The point is, venues are always opening and closing, in the Old Town as well as elsewhere in the city.

It’s called the market.

Crap venues open and close, good venues open and, ahem, stay open. For every crappy bar and restaurant which opens with great fanfare but then lasts about five minutes there are plenty of others which stand the test of time by being, you know, quite good. It is not rocket science: the horeca business has always been – and always will be – one of the most attritional there is. That’s valid for Old Town, for the rest of Bucharest and for just about every district of every city in the world. Unfortunately, far too many people think that there are short cuts to success, and that a good location is one such short cut. It isn’t. If your venue is crap it will fail wherever it is.

Of course, now we think of it there is actually nothing new about the Old Town backlash. Ever since the area became popular five or six years ago there have been plenty of snobs declaring their hatred for it, based mainly on the fact that those frightful working classes go there.

Old Town has certainly become seedier: there is an awful large number of dodgy night clubs and massage parlours in the area now, at least some of which are not-very-subtle fronts for brothels. Again, this is not unique to the Old Town.

In short, Pro TV‘s report is trying to say that the days of an Old Town location guaranteeing success are over. Well, if they knew anything about anything they would know that an Old Town location never guaranteed success.

Old Town will continue to be the city’s liveliest district for some time to come. It remains rough around the edges, seedy and often way too crowded. That does not put off the thousands of locals and foreigners who head for the area every weekend, however. There will continue to be a cull of bars and restaurants which are not up to scratch – a good thing. But those Old Town venues which have been around for years, and which continue to do well (we are thinking here of places like Lacrimi si sfinti, Mojo, Divan, La Bonne Bouche, Bordello, Beer O’Clock and Van Gogh – amongst others) are going nowhere.

Your correspondent (and others) very much in the pink at an Old Town location on Friday night
Your correspondent very much in the pink at an Old Town location on Friday night

12 thoughts on “The Old Town backlash is well under way

  1. It’s not as simple as good=success and bad=fail though. One of my mates owns a successful bar in Lipscani, as well as others dotted around the city. It’s usually packed to capacity in the evenings.
    Thing is, he’s said if there’s one more rent increase on the building then he’s going to close shop and bugger off elsewhere. He’s basically said that the owners of some of the buildings are starting court the big multinationals who have money to burn (see H&M setting up a loss maker right in the middle) as the expense of local businesses.
    Yes many shit places go out of business and deserve to, other’s are at the mercy of rent increases

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  2. I’ve got high rolling mates all over Eastern Europe, and as a expat in my prime, it’s a life others can only dream about.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a sophisticated joint in Bucharest for a few years now, but the rent thing is an issue for me, only because I don’t like anyone controlling me. Hopefully the EU can sort some of these multinationals out and open the door for local businesses and wealthy expats to bring a touch of class to Bucharest.

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    1. Poor little Roger, first he’s been broken by words on the Internet, then he’s got the upcoming disappointment when his beloved UKIP die on their asses in the general election.

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      1. You’ll never catch being broken by words or strangers on the internet Woger, I mean Roger. I’d never get upset over spelling and grammar or change my username because a dancing monkey has angered me, never!

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  3. Watch out for Floreasca. The changes in the last 2-3 years have been fanatastic, and the best is yet to come, at least in terms of new openings lined up for the next months or so. Can easily become a second entertainment pole in the city

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  4. It is true that hipsters and creative types don’t frequent Lipscani. Places like OTA, Control, Eden and places even further underground are where things are at. It always seemed to me that it was as if everyone and their brother from Militari suddenly showed up in 2011 in Lipscani. I still have very fond memories of being the only person walking around its streets back in 2007-2008. I’d sip beer along with 2-3 other people on a weeknight at Amsterdam on Covaci.

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  5. I have no idea how Lipscani will be, in say, 10 years time, but its heyday was certainly pre-WWII. In the archival photos I’ve seen from the 30s and early 40s, Lipscani was a bustling center of the city with all kinds of shops. It was natural that after being dormant for many decades, the obvious thing to do was to make it into a nightlife center for the masses. Hopefully Lipscani will evolve in the future with other types of shops. It was fun back in 2009-2010 when it was just redeveloping. Since Atelier Mecanic left a year and half ago, I have fully decamped to its reincarnation at Eden and the like.

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    1. Stop it with the heyday in the 30s and 40s. That old myth needs to be put to bed for good. Do you have any idea what life was like for ordinary people in those decades? It was shit. Romania had the lowest number of literate people in Europe, the lowest number of homes with electricity, plumbing etc. Fascists (real ones) killed people they didn’t like with no fear of retribution. Pogroms, dictatorship, war. Read some Lucian Boia: he blows the whole Golden Age of the 1930s myth to pieces far better than I ever could.

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