"a place where you can be - and lose - yourself"
Birgit&Bier, a newby in Berlin’s long list of places to visit. Little is written about it yet. What is Birgit&Bier and why did it become so popular? I am speaking with Julia, she is the manager of Birgit&Bier and works together with the 3 owners the place counts. While running a busy Christmas market she found time to share Birgit&Bier’s story.
The name is an hommage to a song by Element of Crime called “Kaffee und Karin”
How did Birgit&Bier come into existence?
The four of us found an old place where radio stations used to record, perfect to start a new club. When a lack of permits bothered the plans, the owner offered us another place. That’s the place where Birgit&Bier is located now. Is is pretty hidden, you have to know about the location because you do not easily walk by. Originally, the location used to be part of a big shipyard. Authentic parts, like storage barns, are still visible. We came across the area and we all thought the same: “We should do something with it”. It took us half a year to build up the place and we opened in May this year.
What is Birgit&Bier?
It is a biergarten, a club and a lot more. I like to describe it as an neverland for grown ups, a place where you can be – but also lose – yourself. We serve fresh unpasteurized beer from large tanks, organize Christmas markets. At the moment we work together with Marchenhutte (known from The Monbijou-Theater in Mitte), they perform at our Christmas market.
We serve fresh unpasteurized beer from large tanks
How was it financially possible to build up Birgit and Bier?
The owners of Birgit&Bier, Robert K., Alex J. and Robert F., did already own other bars in Berlin (Minimal, Promenaden Eck, Süß war gestern, Zu mir oder zu dir and Bitte & Danke) and could therefore invest in a new venue. A lot of friends helped us as well. Not with money but with their workforce. It took us half a year to build this place. Aside from the little old barns it was a totally empty space. Inspired by places like Bar 25 and Sisyphos we used a lot of wood. We are so lucky to have a great community around us that helped to create everything.
What does the future of this area looks like?
We now rent the place for an unknown period of time. Little is known about the availability in the next years. The place is surrounded by an industrial estate that produces concrete. When the industry closes they will tear down the whole area and build houses or what so ever. It is sad, but I guess we will not exceed the five year border. We cannot avoid it. There are no rights when you did not buy the venue.
A laundry line with clothes and underwear adorns one of the bars. Benches on the large Carousel spin people around
What do you wanna give to Berlin?
We want this to be a place where everybody is welcome, you do not have to be cool, you do not have to be white, male or female to get in. You just have to be a nice person older than 21 years and not too drunk. I spendt the whole summer here, not because I work here, but because it is such a nice place. We build a community of people, after work we all stay here and chill. It is a place where you can be whatever you want to be.
What is your relationship with the local community?
The reactions were very positive. We worked with our neighbours IPSE, an underground techno club, on a summer festival together and we were actually planning to do the christmas market together as well. Unfortunately this did not work out because of building authority reasons.
You have to go to Bauamt to get permission to build anything. Even for small things like placing chairs and tables. The community around here is great, also with Chalet and our other neighbours, we are very close and we help eachother out. If they are lacking DJ-gear they can borrow it from us and the other way around.
How does the PR work?
We have a Facebook account and that is how we inform people about our events. When we opened in May we announced it at Flux Fm and Radio Eins. We did not spend money on the advertisement on Facebook but people anyways found out about it. The opening party event got published, and then, people were sharing it… inviting other people and all of the sudden we had more than 6000 people that pressed ‘attend’.
What are the main obstacles you encounter being a manager of Birgit&Bier?
The whole organisational stuff. Getting your staff together, finding good people that are willing to be honest and work hard, into building something together with us. People who do not just see it as a job, but as a family, because that is what we are. We work with around 40 people. We have great people here. Everything with the official governmental stuff was hard as well. Every time you fix something, the next thing broke already. The electricity around here is pretty hard to maintain.
Four different people, with four different views
Julie studied English and History but did not work towards being of influence in this workfield. Working together with Robert K., Alex J. and Robert F. in their bars lead to this collaboration. On the question: ‘Were you all on the same page about the ideas of this place?’ she answers: ‘No, not at all! Four different people, with four different views. But it works out.’