The history of Café Nil
by Thomas Winzker
When the era of the men's sauna in the Türkenstrasse came to an end in April 1988, there was one good thing about it: Manfred and Thomas, the operators of the sauna, made the decision to enrich the city with a place where guests of all sexes, ages, nationalities and backgrounds should feel welcomed.
1989 until 2001
They went in search of a suitable property and found it in the Glockenbach district, the center of Munich's queer life. There, in Hans-Sachs-Straße, was an entertainment gem from the days when the area was still a red-light district: the then well-known Fernadel bar, which refused to allow any insight into the sleazy demimonde inside. But that's exactly what Manfred wanted to change for the future: He wanted everyone to be able to look into his bar through the large shop windows and see what was going on inside in his colorful world. No more shameful hide-and-seek: Manfred's restaurant should openly lead the way into a new era.
On a trip to Amsterdam with a close friend, he came up with the idea of what the bar should be called. The name had to be short, catchy and internationally recognizable: The "Nil" was born, and the colonial style of the British protectorate of Egypt was to offer reminiscences of the great river: Thonet chairs, coffee house tables, wooden blinds, whitewashed wood, Art Nouveau mirrors à la Macintosh, complemented by an enormous colorful mural by celebrated U.S. artist David Bennett. The trademark of the bar, however, was the sweeping U-shaped counter in the center of the bar - with a high flirt factor, because the guests could sit facing each other. And they did so immediately, and with great joy, when the doors opened for the first time on June 1, 1989 ...
... and the "Nil" became the place to be of the gay world - with guests from Munich and all over the world. This may have been due to the fact that Manfred had studied in London, Paris, Cologne and Munich, and internationality was a must for him.
2002 until 2007
But then, after 12 years of flourishing business, it was time for change again, when Manfred and Thomas decided to move their center of life - the reason for them to lease the "Nil" from February 2002 on. The choice fell on the experienced restaurant owner Armin, who promised to continue the concept in Manfred's sense unchanged ... until a new "Nil" chapter was opened in autumn 2007 ...
1996 - 2005
1996 Nikolausfeier, 2000 Hans-Sachs-Straßenfest, 2001 Straßenfest Oberanger, 2002 CSD Marienplatz, 2003 Fasching, 2004 15-Jahre Nil, 2005 Fasching
2008 until 2009
... there was a short intermezzo with a restaurant owner in 2008, who decided to give the restaurant a strict rejuvenation cure: A new, very young audience was needed. For this purpose, the "Nil" was renamed to " Glocke & Bach" and restyled in trendy shabby chic. In addition, the bar was banished from the center, reduced in size, and constructed towards a mirror wall - an unforgivable mistake, as the declining guest acceptance quickly showed...
A quick decision was made, a radical change followed - triggered by a personal stroke of fate: the death of Manfred's Thomas. Despite his 70 years of age, Manfred needed a new task in his life, just as his restaurant needed a new perspective. He returned to the old recipe for success of the "Nil", brought Basti on board as support in the management and intended to start fresh with the "new Nil".
To this purpose, the spaces were gutted and expanded, walls were torn down and several layers of ceilings from decades of remodeling were removed (including a kidney-shaped original ceiling from the 1950s!). The counter moved back into the center, further enlarged, and air conditioning was installed, along with a lighting system with endless shades of color. But the most important change was the stylistic reorientation that would explain the name Nil. The idea of ancient Egypt was born, which is why the color concept was also based on the jewelry of the pharaohs, gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian and turquoise. The eye-catcher became the golden Ra sun disk in front of an orange-red background, a column in the shape of a lotus bud rises above the counter, whose moulding is painted with graffiti as found in royal tombs, the sand-colored walls are adorned with historical photographs of pyramids and palm trees, and as a homage to the "old Nil" the mural by David Bennett in a reduced format.
On April 29, 2010, the time has finally come: Already in the afternoon, the guests streamed in with expectation and gathered in crowds, until the police had to put the hustle and bustle, which degenerated into a true street party, in its place. Manfred was celebrated, he was cheered and applauded, and the guests, among them many who had not seen each other for a long time, were embracing each other: Finally they had their living room back!
A whole decade had the "new Nil" now already behind itself, popular as always. Thanks to Basti, the managing director, who fills Manfred's big shoes with his very own ideas. To secure the future of the "Nil" was and is always Manfred's wish. And Basti has accepted this challenge.