A classic Dutch brown café is much like your favorite pair of old shoes. When you step into them, you are welcomed by a distinct sensation of familiarity. And although the smell is questionable, the feeling when you’re in them is incomparable.

Erasmus University has long had its own ‘favorite pair of shoes’ if you will in the form of Café in De Smitse, the dimly lit hole-in-the-wall bar with mustard yellow walls burrowed beneath the Mandeville Building. But like any pair of shoes, there eventually comes a time when a change needs to be considered.

The university elected for such a change and resurrected a brand-new Café in De Smitse in the lower realms of the Hatta. Modern yet traditional in a sense, the designers of the new café promised to capture the cozy atmosphere of the old café whilst bringing the interior and size of the bar bang up to date. Now just a month after its grand opening, EM paid a visit on a packed Wednesday evening to ask the merry beer drinkers whether the new Smitse still had that classic brown café feeling.

Tyson de Groot (Alumnus)

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Tyson de Groot drinkt een biertje met de barkeeper. Image credit: Joshua Kruter

“Is the atmosphere better here? I definitely think so. At a glance, you can see it’s much busier here and that more craft beers are being washed down. The place may attract a different crowd, but as the night draws in, you can hear that same ‘boom boom boom’ that you always used to hear at the old bar. The L-shape of the bar is also much handier. In the old Smitse, the bar was a square and you’d see everyone standing at the front and no one at the back. The crowd is spread out better and the new location is much less hidden. There were students who’d been at the Uni for years but who never knew that there was a bar here.”

Emily van Breugel (Law Studies)

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Don’t let it spill Emily.

“The new Smitse is obviously newer. It looks modern. And that’s just the thing that I’m not sure about. In the old one, we could throw beer, dance on the bar and basically do anything. Here it feels a bit more formal. I like the fact that everything is new and shiny, but in the old one, which we went to a lot, we would play beer pong and it had the feeling that anything was ok. Here, you feel that you’re not allowed to let anything get dirty.”

Guido Bernsen (Fiscal Economics)

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Guido(second from the left) enjoys a brew with the boys

“This place is much less of a dark hole. There’s more light, more places to sit and it’s more inviting for people in general. It’s a really nice bar to be honest, it just doesn’t have that same feeling and tradition as the old Smitse did. That will come in time though, because we’re regulars here.”

Ilse Hilhorst (Bartender)

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Ilse pours a milky Hertog Jan behind the bar.

“What’s brilliant is that the ceilings are much higher compared to the old Smitse. The old place was more of a dark little spot in the corner, whereas this one is roomier. What I notice is that it’s much busier everyday, which is why we’re looking for more bartenders so that we can keep a fun atmosphere behind the bar as well as in front.”