The list of bars and clubs in downtown Reykjavík closing their doors for good is getting longer.
In the past six years during which I’ve lived in Iceland, many, many bars have opened, failed and subsequently closed down. Most of them didn’t last for very long but some have become an important part of Iceland’s nightlife.
When legendary bar Sirkús closed its doors in 2008, after nine years of partying, many saw that as an end of an era. Undoubtedly, Sirkús was the most popular and hippest place by far. If one is to believe the rumors, the loss of the liquor license is what ultimately killed it.
About a week ago, Boston was closed down, presumably only temporarily. Boston is, or was, a well-established bar on Reykjavík’s main shopping street Laugavegur and some call it the closest thing to a successor to Sirkús.
There are many rumors regarding Boston. Some say the bar has a massive tax debt and can only re-open once the debt is paid in its entirety. Others say bankruptcy is the reason for Boston’s closing. And yesterday somebody told me the bar would re-open on Friday.
As you can see, nobody knows anything for sure.
The end of Iceland Airwaves music festival earlier this month also marked the end for Bakkús, located at the corner of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur. Established in 2008, the bar quickly became a favorite of the young, hip art scene mixed with the older Sirkús people.
And again, people thought Sirkús had been resurrected. Every bar has to compete with the mighty Sirkús at some point.
Bakkús had all those things no other bar had: table tennis, foosball, a photo booth, beautifully painted tables and the license to go nuts. And yet again, reasons for its end are unclear. I’ve heard words like bankruptcy, mismanagement, debts etc being used.
For personal reasons, I liked neither Bakkús nor Boston, but I’m sad nonetheless that their existence has (most likely) come to an end. They had been there for quite a while and had an established place in Reykjavík’s nightlife.
Also, Faktorý, a popular place for concerts downtown, will be torn down soon to make way for another hotel. Just what this city needs.
And talking about needs, the gay scene in Iceland has been quite unfortunate regarding gay bars. Although most bars here are gay friendly, many gay-specific hang-outs have vanished within just a few years. First it was Kaffi Kósý, then Q-Bar (I have fond memories of that place), then Barbara and Trúnó.
Thinking of Barbara and Trúnó now, I think the building they were located in is cursed. It’s the same house on the corner of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur that was home to Bakkús and that small pub which was so short lived and insignificant that I didn’t even bother to find out its name. Changing names, owners and management seems to be a sport here in Iceland.
I’m probably confusing things, but I will try to establish some kind of a timeline here. Many years ago, a bar called 22 was in said building. Rumor has it that it belonged to a bunch of drug dealers who used to torture people that owed them money in the basement. 22 turned into Barinn which wasn’t very successful. Hence it was turned into 22 again but that also failed.
After that, they divided the upstairs and the downstairs into two different bars and named the downstairs Kafka. Kafka was closed down before it even opened. The upstairs became Reykjavík’s new, long awaited gay bar Barbara. The former Kafka was turned into a lovely, colorful and cozy café/bar called Karamba. Sadly, Karamba only lasted for about a year and a half or so before turning into another gay café, this time called Trúnó. Barbara was kicked out in favor of Bakkús which had to leave its original premises down on Tryggvagata because of a huge rent increase. Anyhow, Trúnó then fell victim to said insignificant pub which is currently under renovation.
Every bar in that building has been a failure and I wonder what they are going to do with it this time.
Anyhow, it’s hard to keep track of all the places shutting down and opening.
As long as they keep my favorite bar open, they can open and close whatever they want.
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org
Katharina Hauptmann is a freelance writer by day and a barmaid by night. The Erasmus student exchange program brought her to Iceland in 2006 and she fell passionately in love with Iceland and made her permanent home in Reykjavik. She spends her time writing, reading and observing people.