Yaam: closing time for Berlin bar

Article published on Nov. 27, 2012
Article published on Nov. 27, 2012
Matters in Berlin are starting to take a turn for the worse regarding its alternative cultural spaces. After the eviction of artists from the iconic Tacheles squat, now it is Yaam - the much-loved Berlin beach bar - which is struggling with the threat of closure

Located just along from the east side gallery, Yaam bar's Jamaican-themed space is open to all and has numerous activities on offer, including concerts, African restaurants, basketball matches, bike hire, exhibitions and open air gigs amongst others. Along its stretch of beach on the banks of the river Spree in Berlin, you are as likely to bump into tourists as Rastas playing the djembe, teenagers with skateboards tucked under their arms, basketballs players, families and graffiti artists.

Move on - where to?

On 10 October 2012, the association that manages this multicultural venue received a letter terminating its lease. The site is owned by Urnova, a Spanish company that bought the land for approximately 12 million euros in 2008. The investor now hopes to resell it for over twice that amount. Although at present there is no buyer lined up, the owners of the Jamaican strandbar have been told to pack up and leave the premises by the end of the year. Ortwin Rau, Yaam's co-founder, claims that moving the venue elsewhere will take much longer.

Yaam beach bar

Yaam has the support of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain councils, where local polticians are conscious of the cultural and social role of the bar where nearly fifty people work over the summer. As well as bringing life to the area, Yaam also lends financial support to several African and Caribbean associations. Only the senate can come to the bar’s defence by coming up with a new central location, which is already equipped with buildings and is suitable for concerts and other noisy events. Unfortunately, financial interests seem to be winning out. A round-table talk is due to be organised in the coming weeks to find a solution.

Having moved six times since its creation in 1994, the strandbar has grown weary of doggedly rebuilding itself, not to mention the costs involved. Yaam is not just a beach bar: it is also home to African restaurants, cafes, two recording studios, a skatepark and sports grounds - structures that have been developed over the years without subsidies or financial support of any kind. 'The city of Berlin has no long-term vision regarding urban planning and does not see the value of places like Yaam,' objects Ortwin. 'Millions are being spent to renovate the opera and build an international airport, but there is nothing for us.' When the banks of the Spree are covered in offices and the alternative spaces that form the heart and soul of the German capital have disappeared, will Berlin still seem quite so attractive to tourists? In the meantime, several measures have been set in motion to try and save Yaam, most notably the sale of postcards to raise funds and an online petition that has already been signed by over 15, 000 people. 

Read the author's blog Good Morning Berlin (in French)

Images: courtesy of © Yaam official facebook page; in-text : © Élodie Benchereau