Café Nemoland has changed a lot over time. We’ve gone from being an occupied, underground shooting alley, to a sleazy pub, to being a café, bar and music venue that welcomes everybody.
When the military defense chose to shut down the navy in Bådmandsstræde at the end of the 1960’s, no one would have ever imagined that the area of 32 acres would evolve into what is perhaps the most unique town-part in the world. That this historical event was even possible, is due to the fact that the military defense believed that they could let the area and its many preservation-worthy buildings linger in despair.
The first citizens
But that wasn’t going to happen. A small group of residents took matters into their own hands – matters literally being planks – and started beating a hole in the rail that surrounded the barrack area; the thought was that the facilities would now be for recreational use, etc. Thieves and metal-scavenger started settling in, and their vandalism instantly revealed the lack of supervision and control. Furthermore, it made it possible for the city’s youth of the time, the so-called hippies, and numerous Scandinavian backpackers to have a place to live in for free.
The man Nemo
After this overtaking there were barely any places left that hadn’t been taken over and inhabited – that is if we don’t count the hole in the ground that was the Defense’s old shooting range in the ramparts. It was inside these underground shooting areas that a young man named Nemo started selling fresh fruits and vegetables to the new inhabitants of Christiania.
To begin with, Nemoland was basically just a hole in the ground. In the first part of this period, Bullshit MC was in control of the pub ‘Nemo’.
Some would say that Bullshit wasn’t a real MC-club, but instead individualists with their own individual dream of a life above the lower-class. Bullshit’s members all had very distinct personalities, and it is known that many of them live a quiet life with their families outside of Christiania.
Bullshit MC are kicked out and the citizens stand victorious
The citizens of Christiania reach a limit when Bullshit’s “business” around the city affect the life in Christiania to an unbearable extent due to violence, shootings, killings, and mutilation of dead bodies. The people of Christiania wouldn’t accept this, and at a meeting they agreed that Bullshit MC should be kicked out, which they were.
Two big personalities acknowledged this gesture by beginning a radical reconstruction of the pub Nemo. In the nature of the case, there was a banning of cameras around the entire pub– no one wanted to be remembered wearing their leather jacket with the shitting bull on the back.
The pub ‘Nemo’ took a U-turn. The grass in front of Nemo was reorganized and one could experience the famous painter KAZMIR, who has painted many anniversary paintings for Christiania. Nemo had now become the place where anyone – even people who didn’t have any money – could come and enjoy a good time. There were theme-parties with live music, and the entry was always free.
At the end of the period the ‘hole in the ground’ had become what is known today as Café Nemoland, where only a few administrative conditions were needed to make the government outside of the railings accept Nemoland.
Christianias companies evolve
People of Christiania aren’t generally dumb or naïve, but a lot of them believed that the reconstruction was just a superficial cover up to camouflage a place that would just continue on the same bad path. However, many of them did with time and frequent visits understand the real intentions of the place, and became Nemoland’s best ambassadors; something the café was and is extremely grateful for. Thank you.
An active Christiania
Christiania is sectioned in to 11 little communities in which Café Nemoland is a part of Fabriksområdet (the factory area). Fabriksområdet is the part of Christiania that accommodates most of the 500.000 tourists visiting Christiania every year.
A big thanks
Christiania’s companies and their activities are based on an agreement with the local community’s representatives, which grants you the right to use the property. The representatives receive, process, reject or approve all the companies’ applications for activities, etc. Anyone who has witnessed a “Christiania/area-meeting” is surprised at the fact that it’s possible to reach a decision that is even remotely based on democracy, knowledge, and experience. Therefore, we want to say a genuine and heartfelt THANK YOU to the people who through the years, at the previously mentioned meetings, have represented Nemo and later Café Nemoland. Nevertheless THANK YOU to the area-representatives who, with their positive attitude through the years, have been a part of Café Nemoland’s historical development.
In 1991 rules that applied to Café Nemoland were made. It hasn’t been possible to buy hash here at Café Nemoland as we, in consideration of our staff and the non-hash-smoking guests, have banned the use of hash inside. When the authorities occasionally stop by for inspections, there is a mutual respect between everyone involved.
The everyday-life at Café Nemoland
Even the area-representatives are understanding to Nemoland’s requests for different actions and events, for example the popular VIP-parties that have been a reoccurring cultural high-point. We here at Café Nemoland see the café as a part of our lives. We care about giving all of Christiania’s guests an exciting and well-organized visit, no matter the time of year nor the costumers’ economical situation.
Life abroad Nemoland
The time around the turn of the century was an amazing time for Nemoland. The staff was working and the management helped making everything go in the right direction. On the summer visitors could enjoy all the plants that were suddenly growing everywhere, making Nemoland one of Copenhagen’s most beautiful outside areas. There were exotic palm trees – giant bougainvillea plants – not to mention 100 years old olive-trees. The outside-bar was rebuilt and a VIP terrace was built on the hill after several applications to Castle-and Property Board. Nemoland and the bistro had gradually become a reputable place.
Cultures meet Nemoland
There was and is room for all cultures and social classes, and due to our festive events and parties the outside area is full of people from all around the world. This is a place where you can sit and enjoy life without worrying about getting recognized or discovered.
The law is enforced
Things came to an end when law enforcement occupied Christiania and Nemoland in 2004. The free hash-market was to be fought with violence, law, and power. This resulted in police being present in Christiania every day, and the new laws made it possible for them to give 2000 kr. tickets to people just for smoking cannabis. Around 3500 tickets were given in one week! Nemoland therefore had some difficult conditions in this period; customers stopped coming because of the police’s occupation of Christiania. This, in conjunction with three cold, rainy summers in a row, resulted in Nemoland hitting rock bottom. However, in 2007 a new management was put together.
Change looks good
The first thing the new management did, was an economical rationalization and a change of leadership. A type of hippie-vibe was introduced with psychedelic colors on the walls and very abstract art painted on facades and sculptures – sort of back to reality. New furniture for the bar was purchased, so that the customers could really see the change. A lot of people worked voluntarily for months to make these great changes for the better, and thus Nemoland could rise again due to several dedicated employees.
The people’s freetown
Success has a lot to do with timing and network (and perhaps a bit of luck). In 2007-2008 Nemoland seemed to have all of these things. The summer was sunny and people visited Christiania once again, despite the increase of police enforcement in the area. There was a shift in the culture in all of Christiania, and there was more room for a culture full of parties and more fun events, which we quickly realized was the way towards happier times.
Therefore, Nemoland started organizing free concerts. The plan was, that Sundays would start generating money so that it weren’t just the Fridays and Saturdays that were a good time. Sundays have always been the days to recover after partying, and absolutely nothing went on in the bar on these days. Nemoland was to become what in the 80’s provided free music experiences to the people. The success didn’t happen right away. We took a chance and had music on both Thursdays and Sundays! Luckily, via our network, we’ve once again allied ourselves with a person who for years has been a big part of the Danish music industry. We winged it for about 3-4 years, but then we chose to mix it up a bit and to THINK BIGGER. We decided to become more mainstream, which meant concerts on Sundays exclusively, but with big established artists from the Danish music scene. With this vision and mission we have managed to lift Nemoland’s and Christiania’s reputation, to now being a place where the music never stops!
Another mission and challenge we’ve had is learning how to manage a kitchen. We’ve managed Nemo’s Kitchen for 8 years in July 2015, and serve high-quality food. We now have a dedicated and loyal kitchen staff that has lifted the production and quality, making not only the management happy, but also our guests. We haven’t yet reached our end-goal when it comes to the food, but we are slowly getting there, and have also created growth and jobs for Denmark and Christiania.
Nemoland loves to travel
On top of our plans concerning food and free concerts for the people, we as a cultural union have always had a goal to better the working environment for our staff. It took a few years for the our economical situation to get back to normal, but after that we went back to an old tradition of the staff going on cultural vacations together. It all started back in 1995/96 where the staff was supposed to go on a trip to Thailand, but never ended up going. In the years following, trips to the Netherlands and Iceland were organized, and in the recent years there have been trips to USA, Spain, and Germany. These vacations give everyone inspiration for new ideas within the union, as well as giving the personnel a whole new view on their workplace. Furthermore, the social relations within the staff are strengthened.
We look ahead
The management’s goal is to keep renewing Nemoland, so that our guests’ experiences will keep getting better. Projects and innovation keep the place running as well as giving the management and staff new energy and challenges, which makes for a better place. Rome wasn’t built overnight, and the same goes for Nemoland – it has taken many years to change the place. A newly decorated restaurant, new nice restrooms both in-and outside, a new big stage, manor tiles on the entire square, and a backstage – everything financed by the union alone. This is solely possible by having a stabile and dedicated staff and a management that is just as engaged as well as knowledgeable when it comes to business – and we most certainly do!