Klubovna: Come Get Your Heavy Metal with a Side of Chess

Café-Cum-Student Hangout Lives up to Cultural Mecca Claim

Creative expression and alcohol seem to go well together!  Photo courtesy of Klubovna

Bartenders at Klubovna dress for success.
Photo courtesy of Klubovna

By Lexi St. John

A group of rock musicians unloaded their equipment from an old red mini van, the engine still crackling under the dimly lit trees from its long journey.  A crowd of black-hooded, tatted youths blanketed the front steps to the entrance of a cultural mecca – a melting pot of young intellectuals and their creative minds.

I pushed my way through the front door in to the brightly graffitied bar area and discovered another sort of melting pot – one that tasted of wonderfully cheap beer at 20 crowns ($1.03) with a dash of second hand smoke.

I made my way to the counter to order a beer, avoiding jabbing elbows, protruding dirty musical instruments, and flapping newspapers. But the front of this tightly packed joint was just the beginning of my unfiltered bar experience.

The back room is a sensory explosion:  Tables are packed with chattering students; bookcases line the walls next to rows of old stereos and speakers; murals cover every inch of free surface space; greasy foosball tables form the giant perimeter; and chess pieces spill on to the dark foot-printed floor. You are not just touched by the energy in the room. It slaps you in the face.

This is Klubovna, the Czech word for club, located a few blocks from Dejvicka, the last stop of the ‘A’ metro line. Behind its schoolhouse exterior, Klubovna hosts film screenings, debates, theatrical shows, and musical performances that range from folk groups to metal bands. Before the stage is a large area where a flock of 50 or more listeners can gather and grind.

Founded in 2009 “by students for students,” Klubovna has history written in its walls. Before it was a cultural hotspot, the bar was a set of classrooms for almost 50 years. This intellectual history forms the foundation on which Klubovna is built, becoming a place “not only open to culture, but also community projects and gatherings”, according to its website. It is also a place of communal support, where artists of different genres come together to celebrate their craft over a few pints and loud heavy metal rock music playing in the background.

This artistic hotspot stemmed from a desire for a place that’s more than just a jazz club or a dive bar. Jindrich Pinc, one of the bar’s managers, is extremely proud of what he and his co-workers describe as their “little baby”. They created the perfect place to exercise their customers’ brains, hearts, and livers.

Drop the desk chairs, bring in the bar stools. Photo courtesy of Jindrich Pinc.

Drop the desk chairs, bring in the bar stools.
Photo courtesy of Jindrich Pinc.

Transformation complete: 50 years as an elementary schoolhouse, now a cultural hotspot for Czech youth. Photo courtesy of Jindrich Pinc

Transformation complete: 50 years as an elementary schoolhouse, now a cultural hotspot for Czech youth.
Photo courtesy of Jindrich Pinc

“I think we managed to build up a community of its own and that’s important for us,” he explained. He recalled the club’s history and how it was built by volunteers and university students. Their efforts fostered an emotional investment in the building itself and its purpose.

“I guess what makes it interesting for our guests is that they were able to see Klubovna grow from a dirty hole in the ground to a more or less decent place. Many of them were also helping us with reconstruction, so it makes them feel proud too, which is great,” he said.

With such a great performance space, new bands or artists can try out their new sounds for an affordable price. Likewise, for only around 100 crowns ($5), customers can discover new music while supporting local bands.

“We are getting an important reputation in Prague for jump-starting new bands that couldn’t afford other venues otherwise,” Pinc said. Along with performances and film festivals, the bar hosts a series of flea markets in its garden, book readings by local authors, and even community haircuts. Pinc explained that he is especially proud that Klubovna hosted the Festival Zive Mesto (City Life), a non-profit multi-genre festival which aims to build community spirit.

He and Klubovna’s managing team have founded a place to cultivate art and community in a hip setting. It’s a humble bar that is pushing boundaries while creating new frontiers for culture in Prague. Whether it’s a venue for a chess game, a drinking challenge, or a heated political debate scored by punk rock, Klubovna offers a  cerebral and social alternative to a night of pizza and channel surfing.

Lexi St. John is in the NYU Gallatin Class of 2015. Her hometown is Los Angeles, California.

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2013 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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