It’s not easy, anywhere, to find a bar that feels like your own living room. I think I only had that once, when I lived in North Carolina – a wine bar in Wilmington where I was totally comfortable going alone and would always meet people I knew or like-minded strangers. Although I have never found this to quite the same extent in Leipzig, I have found a few spots I keep going back to regularly when the occasion calls for it. These places have changed for different phases of my life in this lovely city.
When I first moved to Leipzig, in the second half of 2012, I would just follow the new acquaintances I’d made to whatever bar they were going to, since they knew the city a lot better. Beyerhaus seemed to be the default location for impromptu gatherings of this international group.
Another one was Zum Kakadu, since this karaoke bar is open late, seven days a week. The bouncers were friendly enough and the environment was open to diversity back when we were sort of regulars there; I even took my family when they visited. One bitterly cold winter night – it must have been 3 or 4 AM – I remember wading through the snow, alone, all the way from Kakadu to my shared flat in Reudnitz, buoyed by liquid courage and the buzz from singing with friends and strangers on stage.
I moved from Reudnitz to Südvorstadt a year later. By then, the routine of this international group had shifted, and our regular meetup spot had become Noels Ballroom, which was conveniently close to my new flat. The lure of that Irish bar was twofold: the English pub quiz that still takes place there each Tuesday, and the alcohol selection that includes Guinness and an assortment of whiskeys.
Through when I was alone or wanted to meet up one-on-one with someone, I would go to the nearby Café Puschkin, rather. They are usually open late, have a cozy atmosphere and several dishes and snacks to munch on, not to mention their scrumptiously thick hot chocolate.
But the longer I stayed in Leipzig, the more I felt like I needed a regular place where I could enjoy cultural events alongside drinking with friends. In March 2015, I started the English-language blog The Leipzig Glocal (LeipGlo), which would evolve into a web magazine with different authors and columns.
Coinciding with our beginnings was the short-lived Polish bar and restaurant Poniatowski in the Reudnitz area. A non-profit run by international creatives would organize open mics there every two months, which I’d almost always attend, along with other LeipGlo contributors. We jammed until 5 AM on a couple of occasions, in an intoxicating aura of flavored vodka and artistic connection. I had started to feel like this could be sort of my living room, when many factors converged, and the place closed.
Still, besides the important bonding experiences we had there, Poniatowski managed to help us get to the next level and carve our own cultural niche as LeipGlo. It was in their live-performance basement that, in 2016, we organized our first blogger meetup – as part of the events surrounding the Leipzig Book Fair – and this gave us the confidence to keep organizing our own events.
Two years later, we would start hosting our own open mic, due to the former owner of Poniatowski connecting us with the owners of Baileo Tanzpassion. We sought to continue the tradition of the international open mic, having ours also every two months, always on a Friday evening. The newly-opened Baileo, a beautiful dance school that doubles as a bar and cultural venue, heartily welcomed our Cocktail Open Mic as a regular event. It has attracted regular performers, as well, and created a routine for us on those Friday evenings.
We do the open mic, stay on for a couple more drinks until Baileo closes, and then go across the street to the bar at 5Elements Hostel (open late when most places in the city center aren’t). If I lived closer, I’d be walking there every week to have one of Moody’s cocktails – because that bartender is a wizard.
Ana Ribeiro manages all of the content on LeipGlo.com and the associated social media channels.