Mitte has changed. Once a haven for squats in the 1990s, now all you might find are upscale restaurants and cocktail bars. While tourists know this former area of East Berlin as home to major city landmarks – from Brandenburg Gate to Checkpoint Charlie – locals remember it as party central. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, punks and artists famously renewed this no-man’s land into an anarchistic (and hedonistic) wonderland. Nowadays, Mitte has high rents and a designer cafes. Is Mitte dead? Not to Rebecca Brodsky, the owner of the anti-cocktail bar and club LARRY. The daughter of a slot machine tycoon, her dimly-lit, retro bar is awash with casino games (which only take Deutsche Marks) and a 1977 pinball machine. We spoke about the ‘Instant Margarita’ and keeping it real on Chauseestraße.
Local Suicide: How did LARRY begin and why did it come about?
Rebecca Brodsky: Well, should I tell the truth or something more interesting? [Laughs]. It all started as a party we made at my sister Myra’s tattoo studio, The Decay Parlour. I created a D.I.Y. bar with Philip, a tattoo artist, where I bought all the beer and champagne. It was great fun. At the end of the night, I did the math of how much I money I made and that’s when I started thinking about opening my own bar. I was also a DJ for art bars in Neukölln which was all about vintage style – my DJ name was DJ Tampon. I was always thinking about 1980s music because I love 1980s vintage style and its sense of pop. Everything I wanted was a bar where you can only drink and party together, while listening to music nobody else plays – not only electro or hip hop, something in between.
How did you find the space?
When you use the rental website ImmobilienScout, you find only expensive places. I was cruising with my bike through Mitte and was searching for empty places which didn’t have a sign for rent. I wrote them all down. I went to the ministry in Tiergarten and got the house owner address. Before, it was a Velo taxi company, before that it was a Berlin fashion label shop.
When did you open?
September 28, 2013. We were closed last summer to renovate. But our rent contract has no end. It’s unusual for a Berlin place, but we can stay here forever if we want.
You’ve probably seen a lot of things change in the past few years, how has Mitte changed?
It changed a lot. We had techno clubs here in the 1990s with the squats, everything was destroyed. When the Wall was coming down, you couldn’t do anything. Now, there are few clubs left. Nightlife is getting so chic with cocktail bars which have 20 cocktails on their list. It’s no longer about the party because the people go out to drink sophisticated drinks and sit by the bar. It’s not fun. Larry is a place to have fun. It’s different than those places. In my opinion, there’s only Larry, King Size and Bravo left, the rest are sophisticated cocktail bars. Bar Tausend was the first to start that trend.
Are you trying to keep a certain raw or real energy? Why is it important?
We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re not arrogant, we don’t have snobby bar staff. We have regulars and we keep those people to come back. We don’t have a bouncer who will throw everyone out. I’m not an arrogant person. This is a place where you come to have fun with your friends or meet new ones, flirt with guys and girls, smooch around, anything that comes to a good party is excess.
Who are your DJs and what do you have upcoming?
The Austrian rock band Ja Panik have DJed here, so has Berlin DJ Julia Cesar and DJ Anne Sturm, who was a bartender at Muschi Obermaier. On February 6, Sebastian Meier spins, while on February 7, check out Nine Budde & Ralf Ziervogel a.k.a. SCHOOL OF SEX. We also have DJ Shnigfizz and DJ Michi playing on February 13 and we have a fun Valentines party with DJ Nick Sleazy on February 14. There is no cover to any of our parties.
Can you tell us about your drink specials? They’re not really your typical cocktails…
It started when my sister Myra and I started a drink we like to call the “Instant Margarita.” We just grabbed the bottles and started pouring tequila and Cointreau triple sec directly it into the customers’ mouths at the same time. The bartenders love it.
What’s your signature shot glass?
We have the Larry shot, a mix of vodka, cranberry, lemon juice and cane sugar syrup. We have more shots than cocktails. Shots are more important at parties, you need to get up. They help if you drink too much beer. We have three vodkas, brown rum, Jagermeister and absinthe.
You have a lot of slot machines here, can you play all the slot machines?
Only with a 10 Pfennig coin or one Deutsche Mark. We have eight slot machines from 1965-1980. It ties into the name Larry, which ties into the influence of my father and keep him alive in my heart. The pinball machine too reminds me of my father. This is just for me.
Last question: What did your dad teach you about doing good business?
It guess my mother was teaching me more about business than my father! [Laughs]. My mother has always been the thoroughbred entrepreneur and keeps on being it for me.
LARRY Club and Bar is located at Chauseestraße 131 in Berlin-Mitte.