CC Muziekcafé’s probably one of the more internationally known bars in Amsterdam. Lonely Planet has designated it as one of the coolest bars in the city but really, you should experience the café for yourself.
Owner and operator, René Barens, has a background in financial advising. About two years ago, after being laid off at his company, René decided to take his life into his own hands and invest in a private business that would complement his outgoing personality. According to René, “The best way to predict your future is to make it yourself.” So, in 2010, he purchased the 6-month-old CC Muziekcafé.
The idea of running a café came to Barens’ after long talks with his fiancé, who helped him make the big decision. “After asking me a lot of questions,” he recalls, “she sort of unlocked something inside my brain.”
René had previously gained years of experience working as a bartender on Leidseplein, but as he got older, he grew tired of the nightlife and all the trappings that come with working at a bar for young people. “I was a very good bartender but I thought I was getting too old to be working at a bar on Leidseplein. You know that area is kind of for young people,” laments Barens. “New people come to the bar, so the audience stays the same age, but the people who work at the bar get older. I just wasn’t enjoying my relationship with the kids anymore.”
René enthusiastically recalls his heydays, “I very much liked my job as a bartender because I was good at it!” In 2008, Barens was asked to join a Dutch band that played Brazilian music and rediscovered his passion for singing. “I already knew I loved music and singing, but I really loved singing in a band.”
René wanted the establishment to reflect his ultimate passions in life: sports (i.e. American football), music, dance, and nightlife. “I was torn between starting a sports bar or a music café but in the end I saw CC Muziekcafé was available and I bought it.” He admits, “It was kind of like an impulse buy.”
The first thing René did to the bar to make it his own was redecorate. He made it into a place where you would feel comfortable to sit, chat, and listen to music. Barens, claims, “When people come here, they say, ‘I don’t know why, but I feel at home!’” He added pillows to the chairs and candles to the tables. Barens attributes most of the cozy atmosphere to the candles. “I love candles,” he says, “Candles give it life!” At the café, you’ll find over 35 candles laid about the place.
Then there’s the personal touch at the bar. René wants his staff to introduce themselves to the public. It’s a place where you can be on a first name basis with the bartender. He believes that remembering customers is an important aspect of providing good service and helps build relationships with local patrons. He’ll even run a tab without a fuss. “I’d rather run the risk of having somebody run out without paying then skimp on trust. People appreciate that.” René muses, “In this cynical world, people are treated as numbers, but I want to go back to a time when we treated each other with respect.”
The final and perhaps most important thing you can expect from CC Muziekcafe is the music itself. René invites bands from all over the world. While the café does not support any one specific kind of music, you are guaranteed to see something surprising, innovative, and entertaining each and every night.
On any given night, you might catch an Indian singer/songwriter, a soul/jazz band, a pop rock jam session, Brazilian samba, a funk band, or Greek traditional music. If you’re feeling talented (and interactive), they even offer live karaoke and pub quizzes. “It’s really a kaleidoscope of styles, people, and music,” concludes René, “I welcome all kinds of bands as long as its quality music and it’s made with passion and heart.”
1072 HG Amsterdam