Monday 16 November 2015 will see Misset Horeca announcing the first-ever winner of the Café Top 100 EURO. It will be an interesting moment, since what once started as the ‘Bar of the Year’ competition (and in 2003 was re-named to Café Top 100 so to actually rank bars between them) and grew to be the most prestigious Award, now seems to have evolved into a cheap marketing tool.
Scores of people travel up and down Holland each year, visiting hundreds of bars and scoring them on hospitality, craftsmanship and how they run their business in general. They can come in groups of jurors, or alone, as mystery guest. They take their job very seriously: when you serve a cup of tea without a small-saucer-to-put-the-leaking-teabag on, you’re out. The gallery of winners reads as a salivating route map for pure bar joy – but this year, scores of bars who could contest for first place refused to participate. In my mind a correct decision which should land them an Honorary Mention at least.
Because once, partaking in this competition was ‘free’- the jury knew which bars were up for it and every year was fed with new bars to visit by other people in the know. This year, bars has to cough up € 100 to enter the competition. Not like they’re asking the world, but many professional bars consider this a matter of principle and refuse to pay to participate. One either ‘has’ quality or one ‘hasn’t’ – and making willingness to pay even the smallest amount of money the primary selection criterion is, also in my mind, a professional mortal sin. It does fundamental injustice to craftsmanship and hospitality – moreover, it really only says something about the way Vakmedianet, owner of Misset Horeca, runs its business. Their website may buzz with delight over ‘Rotterdam ruling this year’s Top 100’ – what they thus mean is Rotterdam bars are the most willing payers to an altogether independent jury.
A deadly sin indeed. Many phenomenal, leading bars have long doubted whether or not to enter the competiton. Each bar has to make up its own mind, but for me, bars like Nijmegens ‘Café Jos’ or my own #Kluphuis Bierproeflokaal ‘In de Wildeman’ have become even more dear because of their principal to refuse paying to participate. So be it, my #Kluphuis will not be judged by a professional jury, and can’t be ‘Bar of the Year’ – never mind, I know they meet the standards. And f*** that small-saucer-to-put-the-leaking-teabag on.