A healthy mix makes a vibrant city

Interview with Kristian

Rob Ittmann
Written by Rob Ittmann

Kristian de Leeuw may not have been born and raised in Rotterdam, but he’s part of the fabric of this port city. It all started with the parties that became BAR on West-Kruiskade. These days he’s a mainstay of the Schieblock, where he opened the Central District’s first retro arcade hall.

Voor iemand met een diploma geschiedenis was ondernemerschap niet de meest voor de hand liggende carrièrestap. Maar toen Kristian 11 jaar geleden in Rotterdam aankwam, ontmoette hij Jetti - de vrouw die zijn zakenpartner zou worden - terwijl hij in hostel ROOM werkte en ontdekte dat hij de voorkeur gaf aan de Rotterdamse mentaliteit van 'niet lullen, maar poetsen'.

“Bij het werken in het hostel bleek dat er in Rotterdam niet veel vertier was”, herinnert Kristian zich. “Berlijn was onze inspiratiebron. Daar is niets te over-the-top en lijkt het alsof alles mogelijk is. We besloten te stoppen met zeuren en iets te doen.”

For someone with a degree in history, entrepreneurship was not the most obvious career move. But when Kristian arrived in Rotterdam 11 years ago he met Jetti – the woman who’d become his business partner – while working at the ROOM hostel and found he preferred the Rotterdam mentality of ‘less talk, more action’.

‘Working at the hostel, it became apparent there wasn’t much entertainment in Rotterdam’, remembers Kristian. ‘Berlin was our inspiration. There, nothing is too over-the-top and it seems like everything is possible. We decided to stop moaning and do something.’

‘Berlin was our inspiration. There, nothing is too over-the-top and it seems like everything is possible. We decided to stop moaning and do something.’
Kristian de Leeuw

Urban life

Rotterdam is in the midst of a transformation. Just ten years ago the city’s image was pretty different. ‘When uni friends asked where I wanted to live, this city didn’t even come to mind. But I wound up here by chance and ended up sort of falling in love. You don’t see that rawness of abandoned buildings and street art in other cities. Looking at the Central District specifically, I’d say we’ve definitely contributed to its popularity now. It’s the mix of living, working and entertainment that make this area great. And that’s the key thing we need to hold onto.’

Society for Public Happiness

Kristian and Jetti’s entrepreneurial success started with their ‘Society for Public Happiness’, or MAVV in Dutch for short, which organized parties both legal and illegal at all kinds of venues in Rotterdam. It was a hit and demand grew.

“The city had no established nightclubs like this, so we decided to be the first. That was in Rotterdam Noord. BAR on West-Kruiskade came shortly after that and we had a blast there for two years. Then, through our connections with Zus Architecten, we started at Schieblock." The simple concept behind BAR was scaled up into a multifunctional club with theatrical performances, club nights and a restaurant. A possible relocation was derailed in 2019, but that didn’t dampen Kristian’s entrepreneurial spirit, and so the idea for a retro arcade hall was born.

POING Arcade

As the district grew, so did the search for concepts that would appeal to a broader public. Kristian realized a retro arcade with classic game machines and club nights on weekends would be a perfect match. The name is a nod to the popular music scene.

“POING links back to a track by Rotterdam Termination Source, a great techno track from 1992. The great thing about the arcade is that weekends are packed with families, on weekdays we get office outings, and the old crowd from BAR still stick around for a game and dance nights in the club." Predicting the future is difficult in these times, but his next entrepreneurial dream is to open an outdoor club with a big terrace. For now though, Kristian’s focus is on the arcade, which he hopes to see back in action again soon.

Rob Ittmann
Written by Rob Ittmann