It certainly smells differently. Visitors are no longer welcomed by the pong of stale beer: for the next few months, they’ll mainly be smelling new furniture. And the bar has moved house too: from Mandeville to Hatta, where they expanded their floor space by 50 square metres to 250 in total. In terms of capacity, this means they can accommodate 600 people. And a bit more during the warmer months, when De Smitse can set up a large terrace in front of the premises.
They closed the old place. Last week some 300 fans bid their farewell – some of them slightly teary-eyed. At the management’s request, they scrawled some of their memories of the place on the walls. Although we’re still slightly confused by one F.’s assertion that ‘eating pussy is for gays’. Whatever the case, these prose bouquets – including ‘a grim atmosphere is an atmosphere too’ – will soon be gone, when an RSM lab arises at the former site of the bar.
But let’s return to the new building, where De Smitse held its ‘soft opening’ this week. The idea was to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, according to board member Coen (23). Put in weather strips, check the taps – stuff like that. The grand opening has been planned for the second week of January. They’ve already booked a band and ordered the Flügels for the ‘Flügel party’. With raised eyebrows and a smile: “It’s going to be super nice.”
Whereas the old bar was a cosy traditional-style ‘brown café’, the new place looks quite trendy. Professionalised, is the way Coen puts it. One end has an American feel, with booth tables and an illuminated Coca-Cola sign up on the wall.
And of course – to tick another hipster box – they even have a lounge corner. It has big comfy chairs, which at first glance appear ideal for drinking boutique-roasted coffee. But to our relief, Coen shakes his head: “We only serve beer here, we don’t do coffee.” Although the place is intended to be presentable enough to host socials held by larger players like ESR.
One thing Coen does say with some emphasis: they didn’t want to lose that special ‘Smitse feeling’. That’s one thing he and his predecessors – because this move has actually been years in the making – constantly insisted on with the contractor. And this means that at the back of the new bar you can still find a friendly little corner with part of the old bar counter. As well as the original tables and piano. In the near future, this section can be rented by, for example, student associations. The plan is for them to use it for bar lectures and the like. “We aren’t the dive bar we used to be, though.”
Students were told about De Smitse’s new location during a ‘beer relay race’.
The Smitse feeling
Coen stops a girl and asks her what the ‘Smitse feeling’ is. Her answer: ‘Coming home. And the smell of beer. And you never enter the place without seeing at least one familiar face. There’s always someone you know, which makes it very cosy.” The board member nods in agreement: “I hear that a lot.” And continuing on what she said: “People really experience good times and bad in our bar.”
Good news for Smitse fans: the University is allowing the bar to stay open until 11 p.m. – adding another 60 minutes to its former hours. Management is still in talks about the summer months. They hope to keep the bar open until 1 a.m. in this period.
And they’ll probably have to, because from now on the bar is required to pay a lease. Consequently, De Smitse hopes that in the years ahead, it will be able to raise its annual sales from 600 to 700 hectolitres. According to Coen, this is going to be a “very enjoyable challenge”.