SAN FRANCISCO — Over 28 years at the giant computer chip maker Intel, Renée James…
Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and have been around for 10 years since the founding of Szimpla Kert, the mecca of all ruin bars. These bars are built in Budapest’s old District VII neighborhood (the old Jewish quarter) in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. This neighborhood was left to decay after World War II, so it was a perfect place to develop an underground bar scene. (Not so underground anymore, though.)
From outside, these bars look like normal homes. They don’t have large signs pointing the way, you don’t hear any loud noise, and there’s no line of people waiting to get in. But once you walk in and enter the inner courtyard, you find yourself in the middle of a hip, artsy, and funky bar bustling with crowds talking, dancing, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. Large bouncers inside, along with posted signs, ensure that people are quiet on their way out, so as to not disturb the neighbors.
Each of these ruin bars has its own personality, but they all follow a few basic principles: find an old abandoned place, rent it out (maybe?), set up a bar, fill it with flea market furniture, have a few artists come in to leave their mark on the walls and ceiling, add in some weird antiques, serve alcohol, and watch people flock in. Since all these bars are in abandoned buildings, they open, close, and move frequently depending on whether the neighbors find out, the patrons get too loud, or an investor comes and buys the property to renovate it. This gives the whole concept an edge of excitement, as you never know when these places will come and go.
When you’re in these bars, you feel like you’re drinking at your local thrift store. None of the furniture matches. It’s all old. It’s eclectic. It feels like they just ransacked your grandmother’s house. The ceilings are all designed differently. For example, Instant has a room where the furniture is on the ceiling, and Fogasház has bikes hanging from its ceiling. The places haven’t been repaired or fixed up, and there are still holes in the walls and visible pipes everywhere.