The disappearing act of the traditional pub from the cityscape begs the question: Why is this a concern?

The disappearing act of the traditional pub from the cityscape begs the question: Why is this a concern?

Mees enjoying a glass of beer while engaging in a conversation with fellow pub goer.

The vanishing icon: Leiden’s traditional pubs, where friendships flourish and memories are forged.

Illustrator Caroline Ellerbeck pays a tribute to the significant role of the traditional pub through a series of illustrations. On her website, she expresses, “The authentic Leiden pub is slowly fading from the streets, yet they are the living rooms of the neighborhood, where unique encounters and friendships blossom, plans are hatched, and memories are relived. Social hierarchies do not exist and lives intertwine. Many pubs are icons, with an exuding history. It’s practically the only place where you meet people and hear real stories. It’s the culture of the city and your own neighborhood.”

Caroline’s exhibition is showcased at Leiden’s library café, Coffeestar. The atmosphere is relaxed on this rainy Wednesday afternoon. People are doing some work, some read a book,  others study, or engage in casual conversations. Occasionally, someone enters to glance at the illustrations, but no one seems to deliberately seek out the exhibition. It seems like the right place for this exhibition, in a way its symbolizing the non-binding ambiance of the pub. The only things missing are the numerous social interactions and the scent of old beer and cigarettes.

In the cozy Leiden library café, surrounded by Caroline’s wall illustrations, the atmosphere is aptly captured.

The illustrations depict the exteriors of twenty pubs located in Leiden, some of which no longer exist. The drawings are vibrant, and the chosen colors accurately reflect the atmosphere typically associated with pub visits. Caroline explains, “A pub entices from the outside. Pubs are nostalgic candy boxes, the city’s flavor enhancers. Some illustrations are more colorful than reality. I excel in color. I use a lot of yellow because yellow represents warmth. I associate yellow with a lively pub.”

Behind the lively illustrations and the cozy exhibition atmosphere lies a growing concern about the disappearance of the traditional pub. Last night, I stepped into one of the illustrated pubs, where I had the pleasure of talking to a regular, Mees van Diepen. He shared his perspective on why the disappearance of the pub is a problem.

From concept sketch to the real pub.

Mees, a devoted pub-goer, emphasized that the pub is more than just a place to drink for him. “In the pub, I’ve made new friends and connected with people I would never have encountered otherwise. The pub is a living history of our city; I discover the craziest stories here and create new memories every weekend.”

Mees stressed that pub culture is a crucial part of the city’s identity. He lamented the fact that many pubs have to close their doors, expressing fear of losing the community ties these places foster. His words provide an intimate insight into the value of the pub as more than just a place to have a drink but as a space where the soul of the city comes alive.

The conversation reinforced the belief that preserving traditional pubs is not just about nurturing the social fabric and community bonds formed within them. It illustrated how the disappearance of these meeting places could signify a loss for the social dynamics and cultural heritage of Leiden.

In capturing the essence of Leiden’s disappearing pubs, Caroline Ellerbeck’s exhibition and Mees’ reflections highlight the cultural importance of these spaces. Beyond their role as social hubs, these traditional pubs hold the city’s history and stories.

About The Author

Koen van der Heiden

Koen is 29 years old and was born and raised in the city of Leiden. Before starting his journalism career he was taking care of disabled people. Feeling that he was not going to be happy with doing this all his life, he explored the field of sports, management and business. This was not the breakthrough Koen was looking for, but during an internship at Helden magazine, he saw the light. Journalism is the way to go. Here he can combine his passion for music, he plays in two bands, and his passion for reporting.