GET FAMILIAR: BAR BARIO
Bar Bario is the new kid on the block in Amsterdam's city center. Founded by 21 year old Sierra in the middle of a pandemic, they have grown through word-of-mouth based on the unique take they bring to nightlife and culture in the city by pushing BIPOC and queer kids to the front and providing a safe space to their customers. Bar Bario is Black-owned and women led and it is here to stay! For us, Black Friday isn't about discounts and sales, it's all about showcasing the Black-owned businesses that hold the same values and beliefs as us.
Can you introduce yourself and let us know what you do?
Hi, I'm Sierra. I'm 21 years old and I'm owner and founder of Bar Bario.
How long have you been open for?
Bar Bario has been open since the 30th of July, so that's about 4 months now!
What is the concept for your bar?
Bario means neighborhood in Papiamentu. When I started Bar Bario I wanted to create a cozy space where everyone feels safe and comfortable to simply have a drink and have a good time. Bars in Amsterdam are not inclusive enough, especially for queer people, Black people and people of color. Bario is a space where especially these people can come and hang out without feeling like the odd one out. Next to that, we have a gallery space where we do pop-up exhibitions. With these exhibitions we want to give people that don't easily get an opportunity to show their work in galleries, a space to present themselves and their work. We generally have themed months in the gallery and host events that fit within these themes. For example, last month we had Black Creativity month; we hosted events in collaboration with fellow young Black creatives and created events for Black & Brown people. My personal favorite was Black & Brown love night: a speed dating event exclusively for Black & Brown people to mingle and jingle.
What early drinks memories do you have?
Besides my family being big drinkers, I started working in a cocktail bar when I was 18. I loved cocktail shaking at the bar and my friends gave me a full cocktail shaking set for my birthday. From that point I started hosting dinner parties and cocktail nights at my place for my friends - which I really enjoyed. I feel like right now I'm extending that pleasure to the bar.
What is the team like at your bar, how do you know each other?
Freya used to be my manager at the cocktail bar I worked at. The rest of my staff I actually didn't know before. I put a job application on Instagram and surprisingly got many many applications. To me it was important that the people working at Bario had a warm, cozy feeling and a general knowledge of LGBTQIA+ rights and anti-racism. Having a 'safe space' takes some work and I wanted a team that is interested in upholding this and is passionate about these topics.
What areas of hospitality do you feel unrepresented/underrepresented in?
When I go to bars in Amsterdam I rarely see people like me. Often I look around me and I'm the only black person - or even the only person of color. This means that so many BPOC people don't feel comfortable to go to these places.
Besides that, as a Queer person, I don't want to be stared at. Generally it's not nice to feel like the odd one out. When I was busy opening the bar, I met so many people like distributors and product sales people and all of them were white men around the age of 30. It wasn't shocking to me that this industry is dominated by white people as well, but it was disappointing to see anyways that from beginning to end, the horeca industry is a white-dominated industry.
What are you doing to push representation through Bario?
With the gallery space we focus on people that don't easily get a physical space to represent themselves in. Next to that our events focus on the BIPOC and Queer community. Sometimes they're exclusively for these groups, for example a Queer Brunch, because the rest of Amsterdam is so lacking in spaces for these people.
With our team we also look for people that are part of these communities to make it more comfortable for guests and the team.
How are the exhibitions going so far?
Really well, it is so nice to see our communities showing themselves and thriving. With every new exhibition we have an opening event and it's so lovely to just see pure joy and love and these people moving freely. Because we have different 'themes' every time, it's also very cool to see the energy shift in the gallery every time. It just shows how diverse and creative we all really are.
What does the future look like for Bario?
Hopefully everything with corona will calm down soon and Bar Bario can be fully open till late night like it should. You can expect many more pop-up exhibitions, events and even concerts. We're constantly thinking of new ways to keep the bar interesting and moving and growing quickly like the rest of Amsterdam. You won't see us standing still. We're very excited for the future and all the many collaborations we will have with our fellow young creatives and entrepreneurs.
Bario will continue to grow and be a space where everyone feels welcome for a good good drink, but also for many different events. Also we are looking forward to broadening our support for our most marginalized: we want to do fundraisers and such to help our communities stay safe and grow.