Longtime expat preparing to open new venture
Borivojova is the longest street in Zizkov, boasting about 50 pubs. A strange place to open another one, some may say, especially when your plans call for something radically different than the neighborhood is used to.
“The street is the heart of Zizkov, if you are going drinking,” says Glen Emery, owner of the soon-to-be opened cocktail bar Bukowski’s. “We aren’t going to compete with most of them, we don’t want a beer bar.”
The space, formally The Derby a “4th category stinky old man’s bar” according to Emery, has been undergoing an upgrade for about 14 months now, and Emery and partner Martin Stresko hope to open later this month.
“It’s not a trendy bar,” explains Emery. “We want a nice, calm, neighborhood pub, a place one can go and know what to expect.”
A classic look centered on “drunken literati” is the theme of Bukowski’s, still undergoing reconstruction and decoration. The finished product should be an interesting mix. Emery’s artist friend, sculptor Filip Roztocil has been in charge of the design, with input from Emery.
“The concept is ‘Filip’s design, Glen’s carpet,’” Stresko says, discussing the look while viewing the newly laid carpet for the first time. “We (Stresko and Roztocil) preferred a wooden floor, but from the beginning Glen had to have the carpet.”
The carpet is classic British pub carpet, reds, oranges, blues, greens, is that unique almost tapestry look. The carpet, and the red and black marble bathrooms are two main departures from what should be an otherwise traditional look.
The bar top is a mix of stripped wood, a couple oak bar stools will be scattered in front. Low round tables, a mix of faux grain wood and styles, mix and match furniture, perhaps a couch. Emery says they are avoiding the typical look, which should be more apparent in the decorating scheme.
One wall is completely taken over by a Cubist-style bookshelf. Squares will eventually be given over to friends and customers to fill with their own objects, effectively creating small shrines to themselves. The opposite wall will center the drinking + writers theme. Black and white photos of a variety of writers engaging in some sort of drinking activity will surround a large portrait of the writer Anais Nin. Painted by another friend of Emery’s, Nin is offering a toast to the guests of Bukowski’s. She will be reflected in the huge circular mirror directly across the room from her that sits in the middle of the bookshelves.
Roztocil kept the design straightforward.
“Simplicity, simple shapes, right angles,” he explains when asked about the design process. “The shelves are better than I thought.”
Emery is well-known expat bar owner, behind such successful ventures as Joe’s Bar and The Iron Door. But he’s been out of the business for about five years, so what made him go back?
“I’ve been saying for many years, all expat bars are in the center, but many of the regulars are locals,” he explains. “Martin proved the point with Hapu.”
“The point” being, you can have a successful “expat” bar, outside of the center, filled with a steady, regular client base of a mix of locals and expats. Hapu is the hugely popular cocktail bar in Vinohrady, run by Stresko and his wife. Emery wanted to try and repeat the success.
“I started looking around Vinohrady, in Zizkov, near to Jiriho z Podebrad and the Akropolis,” he says. “This one came along, and while I preferred to be closer to Jiriho z Podebrad, I looked at everything, including the cheap price and a nice landlord.”
Zizkov continues to be called “up-and-coming” and that worked for Emery too.
“The neighborhood currently has a small, potential clientele, but it’s only going to grow,” he says. “It’s a destination neighborhood, a new place on the map.”
So at the start of the end of phase one, all three men express their feelings differently.
“It’s over,” sighs Roztocil about his 14-month design project.
“I have mixed feelings,” says Emery. “It’s done, finished, open; I want to see people’s reactions, the atmosphere, but now I’ve got to be here for ten years.”
“My job comes when we open,” says Stresko, who will be taking care of day-to-day operations. “Right now, I’m just walking by.”
And in another month or so, you too should walk by and see what could be the future of Zizkov drinking.