Food and Drinks
/
Zeedijk

Café ‘t Mandje

Food and Drinks / Zeedijk
Zeedijk 63
info@cafetmandje.amsterdam

In 1927 ‘t Mandje of Bet van Beeren opened and when her niece Diana van Laar reopened ten years ago it had been closed for thirty years. Now it is exactly as it was. ‘Not gay, not straight, not lesbian but for everyone who understands the spirit of Bet.’

Diana van Laar: ‘Amsterdams? Well, look, I was born at the Zeedijk across the street, so … yes. Bet was the sister of my mother, so she’s my aunt. I knew she was famous in some way but I did not understand what that was all about. She was always present and I usually thought, oh god, please do not let them start at me, then I’ll get attention again. Later I understood more. What can I say? She openly proclaimed that she was a lesbian, and that was a big deal in those days. A woman with a very big heart too. Then boys from the province came here – very timidly, nobody knew about them – and then she took them in protection. Do not go with that guy, because that is not ok. Those kind of things.’

Bet van Beeren opened café ‘t Mandje in 1927. Bet van Beeren’s niece has reopened it ten years ago after the café had been closed for over 30 years. Now it is exactly as it was. ‘Not gay, not straight, not lesbian but for everyone who understands the spirit of Bet.’
Diana van Laar: ‘Amsterdams? Well, look, I was born on the Zeedijk just across the street, so … yes. Bet was the sister of my mother, so she’s my aunt. I knew she was famous in some way but I did not understand what that was all about.

She had a big presence, and I usually thought, oh god, please don’t let her start with me, I’ll be getting all the attention if so. I started to understand her better when I was older. What can I say? She openly proclaimed that she was a lesbian, and that was a big deal in those days. A woman with a very big heart too. Then the provincial boys came here – very timidly, nobody knew about them – and she took them into protection. Do not go with that guy, because he is not ok. Those kind of things.’

People in hiding
‘For us it was all very normal. There were quite a few women in the neighborhood who looked like men and men who looked like women. It did not stand out. I also remember that I went to visit a friend to hang out at her mother’s house and that everything was red. I liked it so much, and those mirrors and a nice big window. I did not understand until that friend was behind that window herself.
‘Aunt Bet was a great entertainer as well. Always in the center of attention. She hid people during the war, she hid weapons for the resistance. It was a certain way of thinking; I decide how I live, I embrace whomever is different, if they have a good heart.
You can say that Amsterdam is the gay center of the world, we had the first gay marriage in our café, we can proudly say everything started right here.’

Forty beer
‘But she got sick. That’s what you get when you drink forty beers a day. So my aunt Greet took over. Until the eighties, then the heroïne craze came and there was nothing to earn. It just became too dangerous and Aunt Greet had to close shop. But she always kept it tidy and after Greet died, that request from Bet was in the air, continue the business the way I want it … Meanwhile I had worked in quite a few trendy bars in the city and I thought, yes there is no way to get out of this. I know what Bet would have wanted. ‘

400 percent gay
‘People come here often and then say, it must be more lesbian, or it must be more gay and than I say no. That is not as Bet saw it. Even if you are 400 percent gay and you’re a huge jerk, then you go out too. And if a group of students walk in asking to play Hazes… that’s not the idea of this place. But if you are a posh guy with a thick posh accent and you are open to people – welcome! Enjoy, have fun, you can get an extra beer from me. Do you understand? That was Bet. Free, open to others … but also a strong sense of what is O.K. and what is not. Amsterdam is not like this everywhere but for me that is Amsterdam at it’s best. ‘

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