Meaty burgers named after Amsterdam drag queens? Rainbow unicorn cookies? Fries sprinkled with fairy dust? Clit Tease cocktails? And a white cat called Elvis with “David Bowie eyes”? Amsterdam’s Getto is beautifully heterogeneous for a gay establishment.
Some may say “homogenius.” And it is. Ever since the world-famous bar-restaurant flung open its doors on 11 June 1996, it’s been a trend-setting playground. As it turns twenty-one this year, owners John Sade and Bertie Brands reflect on its history in a changing world.
No electricity. No water. No kitchen. No toilets. In 1996, three friends pooled their skills and transformed what was little more than an empty white “box” on the Warmoesstraat into the kitsch and colorful, New York-inspired Getto. They were John Sade, a cheeky Londoner with a zest for life. “Brabanter” and party organizer Lambertus “Bertie” Brands. And twinkle-eyed Irish cook Noel Sheridan, since departed across the Channel to Thomas Hardy country.
An incongruous gem amongst the then-thriving leather scene of the Warmoesstraat, it reclaimed the name Getto. And with its live and let live attitude, fast became an underground haven for society’s misfits. Gays. Lesbians. Freaks. Rebels. Queers. Drag queens. Leather queens. Bisexuals. Metrosexuals. Transsexuals. Transgender people. Label-defiers. And straights, who wanted somewhere to hang with their mates.
“One evening, during a quiet time of the year, the police enforced a lock-in as taxi drivers were rioting in the streets,” remembers John. “I shut the doors and looked around me. Two men were snogging at the bar, two women were snogging in the restaurant, and a man and a woman were snogging on the couch. I had ‘a moment.’ It pretty much summed up what we’d been trying to achieve.”
“People can also walk in here with one sexuality and leave with another,” laughs Bertie. “One of our regular customers, a woman, would sit at the bar and buy drinks for straight couples sitting alongside her. By the end of the evening, she would be kissing the girlfriends while the boyfriends would be looking on, wondering if they should say something...”
But that’s the magic of Getto. Enter Warmoesstraat 51 and you’re requested to leave your attitude at the door. However, its convivial atmosphere ensures many inhibitions get left there too. Bertie recalls one particularly memorable occasion during a heatwave one summer: “A group of guys decided to spontaneously strip down to their underwear to cool off. Soon, everyone had followed suit. I can still picture one rather large lady sitting in her bra eating dinner. It’s great they all felt comfortable enough to do that.”
“Our biggest asset is definitely our customers,” chimes in John. “They’re media folk, artists, writers, performers, techies... many of whom have remained loyal to us over the years. In fact, we couldn’t have done it without them and the army of help we’ve had since opening our doors – especially from the RoXY crowd. Some of whom are sadly no longer with us.”
It’s not hard to see why the regulars keep coming back for more. Getto has an eclectic weekly social agenda filled with DJ nights, variety shows, and “cocktail bashes.” They were the first to stamp their brand on bingo, cocktails, and DJs spinning while you ate. And the first to get the girls to mix with the boys. They also organized club night “Getto Dance,” just up the road at the Winston, so the mixing and mingling could go on. Invaluable in an era when Amsterdam’s gay scene was notably segregated, and before gay marriage was the “norm.”
In turn, Getto’s loyalty has been just as remarkable. Throughout the years, they’ve played an integral role in Amsterdam’s Bear Pride, Leather Pride, Fetish Pride, and of course, Gay Pride. They’ve promoted local artists by exhibiting their work on their walls: Erwin Olaf, House of XY, and Mascha Rutten, amongst them. They honor the glamour, sparkle and stardust of Amsterdam’s drag queens by naming their “Diva burgers” after them. And they remain a welcome home-from-home for them, plus those from the burgeoning transgender scene. “Getto has always been a community player,” says John. “You have to put in what you get out.”
Twenty-One Facts About Getto You Probably Didn’t Know
1. Getto is Dutch for Ghetto.
2. Bertie found Elvis, originally a farm cat, at a pet store on the Westerstraat.
3. Getto’s phone number is (020) 421 51 51. It’s street number is 51. Coincidence or...?
4. The interior boasts more than fifty well-hung mirror balls and thirty-two fake deer heads.
5. Cocktails are reduced to €5.50 between 17:00-19:00 on Tuesday-Saturday.
6. John has a fetish for rollercoasters.
7. Their bar is stocked with 140 different spirits and liquors.
8. They take their customers on a day trip to Efteling theme park each year.
9. Bertie’s favorite holiday destination is Thailand.
10. The winner of the Drag Queen Olympics has a burger named after them for one year.
11. Their waiters’ aprons were made by Mr B.
12. They have free condoms – supplied by Aidsfonds.
13. They have eighteen different beers.
14. Their bar stools were covered by RoB Amsterdam.
15. Every Sunday is Getto Cocktail Bash with DJs and bubble cocktails for just €5.50.
16. Their twelve different gins make “gin o’clock” a choice affair.
17. They’ve created their own Getto range of ten home-infused spirits.
18. Their “Homo Fries” are organic – and lightly sprinkled with one hundred percent fairy dust.
19. Getto won Best Boat of the Canal Parade at Amsterdam Pride 1998.
20. It took three years before Getto found its home in the Warmoesstraat.
21. Head chef Warren makes their homemade rainbow unicorn cookies.
Five Top Drinks
1. Getto Blaster cocktail
2. Getto chili-infused Bloody Mary
3. Getto home-infused Spiced Rum Sour
4. Virgin Mojito (non-alcoholic)
5. Goose Island IPA
Five Top Eats
1. Nachos Muncho Munchos
2. Jennifer Hopelezz Beef Burger
3. Getto Warm Salads
4. Sexy Galexy Vegetarian Burger
5. Warren’s famous homemade cheesecake
Trip Advisor Comments on Getto...
“Best mojitos in Amsterdam” – 94olivier
“Quirky and queer-friendly” – madwolf3070
“Do not miss this fab experience” – JenBren13
“Best bar staff in town” – Sam S
“Fantastic atmosphere with food and drinks far better than is expected in this part of Amsterdam. Their drinks menu is great, and it’s one of the few places we found with a wide range of shooters and cocktails on offer. Will definitely be back!” – Guy M
“It’s a brilliant introduction and eye-opener into how fantastically liberal, open-minded, free and peaceful Amsterdam is. It represents everything it has to offer. As a straight couple, it was just brilliant to see outward gayness being treated as completely 100% natural and normal.” – irishsteve84
1012 HW Amsterdam
Open daily from 16:30hrs, Mondays closed www.getto.nl