Student café Het Vliegende Paard in Zwolle celebrates its 25th birthday. Manager Dennis Kaatman looks back on the past.
“When I got here about 20 years ago, Het Vliegende Paard (in English ‘The Flying Horse’) had just been closed for a year and was starting up again. We had to start from scratch. If you had a hundred guilders (approximately 50 euro) in the till back then, you had a great day.
All that has changed. But the customers have changed too. In those days, a lot of students would be here five days a week. These days, I think, you see them one day a week on average. Especially on Saturdays of course, on the dancefloor. Meanwhile, the turnover is good. That’s been on the rise for four years. The turnover from the meals has gone down, but we are planning to expand the kitchen and make it more visible, to get that running smoothly again. It’s mainly our activities on other days that make us stand out. Those are the things that make us a unique student café. Even if only ten people show up it can be quite satisfying. It’s not about turnover in moments like that.
Het Vliegende Paard is, I’d say, the largest student room in Zwolle. They literally come here to have a good cry at the bar. I dare say that the average student café in a different city is mainly a place to get drunk, but Het Vliegende Paard is truly different, it’s more than that. When I began studying and drinking were inseparable. That’s no longer the case. People are more opinionated now than they used to. Back in the day, there were real hazings or initiation ceremonies. Not anymore. There’s a strong discussion going on about alcohol usage, and we stimulate a moderation policy among student associations. On the other hand, I’ve had Journalism students who were here every day and I’d think: “That will never work out” and they have gotten quite big, so who am I to judge?
One thing that has changed, though, is that students have less time to develop themselves outside of their studies. Being a member of a student association, organising fun activities it’s under a lot of pressure. This means student associations are struggling to find members and organise activities. It’s often a small group of friends and if that falls apart, it’s over. So that’s a job for us. We give advice, tell people how some things could or should be done and ask how we can be of assistance. We organise something together to get a struggling association up and running again with new members. We guard, so to speak, the student associations. We give everything a chance.”
Photo: Herman Engbers