Our family restaurant Djokja was located on the north side of the Ferdinand Bolstraat, considered a main arterial to the city center of Amsterdam. In the 1970’s residents fought a fierce battle to get rid of the cars. I remember it well, in 1975 burning car wrecks were placed strategically at each end of our block – next to the Heineken Brewery. It looked like a war scene. The situation became increasingly risky for the restaurant, as the livelihood for the Keasberry’s was now being threatened.
Guests would be able to park their cars on both sides of the street. Breaking open the street for nearly a year, widening the sidewalks, would mean lost revenue. I remember it well that my oma (Dutch word for grandmother) protested this decision at City Hall. Their response was: “we are going to close the street for cars and if you don’t like it just move your restaurant”. This message did not go down well with oma. “You cannot just move a restaurant if you have been there for over 20 years!”, said oma. The action group ‘de Pijp’ (named after the ‘old-south’ neighborhood of Amsterdam) eventually got their way. As predicted the restaurant went through a difficult period in time. My parents took over the restaurant from oma who reluctantly retired at age 78.
Under new management, the restaurant was renamed Djokja Baru (Baru is the Indonesian word for ’new’). With that the catering and party service activities were expanded with the motto: ‘if our guests are not coming to the restaurant, we will come to our guests!’ This proved to be a very lucrative part of the business. Djokja worked together with Hilton Amsterdam to cater Indonesian themed events to companies like AKZO. PHILIPS and ADIDAS. The family restaurant was surviving, while the battle for Ferdinand Bolstraat continued. Only half of the street was open for cars – restricting the number of parking spots. In 1986 I became the third generation restauranteur and took over the ownership and management of the restaurant at the young age of 18. Having the responsibility of running the restaurant and continuing the family legacy proofed to be an enormous challenge and a valuable educational experience. The battle for Ferdinand Bolstraat was still not over. It was announced that plans were in the making for a new metro line causing new closures and many years of disruption to businesses. I realized that the economics of running restaurant Djokja were simply not sustainable. Neither were 8-day work weeks. So, after 35 years of serving a large culinary following, it was decided to close the restaurant in 1990 and move on with a heavy heart.
Now 30 years later, the Ferdinand Bolstraat is a very lively street. Finally car-free and with a lots of people in the street, on foot and on bicycles. You see trams and there is now a metro line that took 15 years to build. At Ferdinand Bolstraat 13, where once restaurant Djokja was, is now a karaoke bar. The Heineken Brewery was partly demolished to accommodate an appartement building and a new Heineken square. This part of de Pijp has become an attractive neighborhood, full of trendy restaurants and bars. Certainly worth a visit!
*Images from Collectie Stadsarchief Amsterdam.
*Information from bicycledutch.wordpress.com