Kristian de Leeuw may not have been born and raised in Rotterdam, but he’s part of the fabric of this port city. It all started with the parties that became BAR on West-Kruiskade. These days he’s a mainstay of the Schieblok, where he opened the Central District’s first retro arcade hall.
For someone with a degree in history, entrepreneurship was not the most obvious career move. But when Kristian arrived in Rotterdam 11 years ago to train with a photographer he met Jetti – the woman who’d become his business partner. While working at the ROOM hostel, he found he preferred the Rotterdam mentality of ‘less talk, more action’. ‘Working at the hostel, it became apparent there wasn’t much entertainment in Rotterdam’, Kristian recalls. ‘Berlin was our inspiration. There, nothing is over-the-top and it seems like everything is possible. We decided to stop moaning and do something.’
Rotterdam is in the midst of a transformation. Just ten years ago the city’s image was pretty different. ‘When uni friends asked where I wanted to live, this city didn’t even come to mind. But I wound up here by chance and ended up sort of falling in love. You don’t see that rawness of abandoned buildings and street art in other cities. Looking at the Central District specifically, I’d say we’ve definitely contributed to its popularity now. It’s the mix of living, working and entertainment that make this area a great place to be. And that’s the key thing we need to hold onto.’
Kristian and Jetti’s entrepreneurial success started with their ‘Society for Public Happiness’, or MAVV in Dutch for short, that set up parties both legal and illegal at all kinds of venues in Rotterdam. They were a hit and demand grew. ‘The city had no established nightclubs such as this, so we decided to be the first. That was in Rotterdam Noord. BAR on West-Kruiskade came shortly after that and we had a blast there for two years. Then, through our connections with Zus Architecten, we started at Schieblok.’ The simple concept behind BAR was scaled up into a multifunctional club with theatrical
performances, club nights and a restaurant. A possible relocation was derailed in 2019, but that didn’t dampen Kristian’s entrepreneurial spirit, and so the idea for a retro arcade hall was born.
As the district grew, so did the search for concepts that would appeal to a broader public. Kristian realized a retro arcade with classic game machines and club nights on weekends would be a perfect match. The name is a nod to the popular music scene. ‘POING links back to a track by Rotterdam Termination Source, a great techno track from 1992. The great thing about the arcade is that weekends are packed with families, on weekdays we get office outings, and the old crowd from BAR still stick around for a game and dance nights in the club.’ Predicting the future is difficult in these times, but his next entrepreneurial dream is to open an outdoor club with a big terrace. For now though, Kristian’s focus is on the arcade, which he hopes to see back in action again soon.
TEXT Céline Boute
PHOTOGRAHY Ruben Stam