IT ALL STARTED HERE…
It’s a normal weekday in summer. It’s noon. Under the elevated platforms of the subway at Schlesisches Tor in Berlin-Kreuzberg, more than 50 people queue up in front of a vintage public toilet facility. Here we meet the Burgermeister®.
DAY IN, DAY OUT… THERE’S A LONG QUEUE AT THE BURGER JOINT HERE AT SCHLESI. HOW COMES?
It’s due to our Burgers. People often wonder and cannot understand why people are willing to queue in a noisy and busy place for such a long time. But in the end, everyone agrees: The burger was worth it.
WHAT HAPPENED THAT AN OLD TOILET BLOCK BECAME A BURGER JOINT THAT ATTRACTS SO MANY PEOPLE?
Back in 2003 I noticed this lovely place. When I was out with a friend one evening, I saw the building – an inconspicuous place, closed and totally degenerated.
It just did not leave my mind. What’s up with that thing? Why is it closed down?
I asked around everywhere, from authority to authority, and even went to the historic monuments protection authority. But nobody could provide me with information.
Finally, it turned out that this loo had an owner, a company that wanted to refurbish the toilet and reopen it for public use. But nothing had changed for 20 years.
I found someone in the town hall who could give me more information. It was said that this vintage toilet facility is heritage-protected and would be dismantled and stored.
“WITH THAT BURGER,
IT WENT CRAZY IMMEDIATELY.”
– THE BURGERMEISTER®
AND THAT WAS YOUR KEYWORD?
Exactly. I asked:
“What do you make of this: You save the money for storage and receive money instead?” That baffled him.
“Yes? How? What?”
“I rent the thing and build a fast food joint into it.”
I could hear the disbelief in his voice.
“No, no, young man. A fast food joint located in a public toilet? Where on earth is that possible?”
But I did not let that stop me and kept insisting on my idea until he finally said:
“Okay, I cannot decide that, I’ll have to forward you to someone.”
AND THAT SET THE BALL ROLLING?
It wasn’t easy. I called countless times and was on the phone until I finally got an appointment. The alderman was very nice, but also gave cause for concern and told me there was a risk to open a fast food joint on such a traffic island at this crossroad.
But I was able to convince him with my determination – I would carry the risk alone. Also, I had to take care of the preparation and renovation. In return, I would get the lease and would have to reckon with appropriate conditions: historic monuments protection authority, BVG…
…A WHOLE LOT OF WORK.
I almost gave up in between, because it did not go according to plan. When I finally unlocked the door with an architect, we stood in a basement that was full of dry rot.
The architect warned me “You’ll ruin yourself!”
For a long time, nothing happened. However, when I contacted another expert, he gave the green light. There was no problem, it could be fixed. A construction company did that in two days.
Another hurdle seemed achieved. We could finally get on with building.
Nevertheless, more difficulties appeared, different demands from different authorities.
But I stuck to my plan, we built, painted and filled out applications. For months, I have armed myself with a full body protection suit and mask, demolished and cleaned everything on my own. Then the drywall and electricity had to be handled. It was all hands full.
In the end, from discovery to permission to run the fast food joint, it took a full 3 years.
THREE YEARS OF BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS – BUT GIVING UP WAS NOT AN OPTION?
As I said, at one point, I almost dropped everything. But then again and again I saw this place in the middle of the street, this quiet monument in the noisy city. A pearl, beautiful, with potential. Something very special. Therefore, most probably, the authorities stipulated that it must be able to be put back into the original condition.
Our goal was to make it look like it did before from the outside, with its own charm. But it could offer something completely new on the inside. Of course, that was not easy and a few mistakes were made – one time we almost faced closure.
THAT LUCKILY DIDN’T HAPPEN – ON THE CONTRARY. IN 2006 YOUR BURGER JOINT OPENED.
Right. Of course, we were lucky: It was the year of the World Cup in Germany, only six months after our opening. Crowds of tourists poured into the city and also to us. And with them came the tourist guides … and they wrote about us. I like to remember the beginnings.
A GREAT SUCCESS – FROM THE BEGINNING?
When we opened, a lot was going on right away. The media response was huge. Several films were shot here! That helped us a lot.
A LONG STORY AND A DICEY START. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE FUTURE?
We want to make it even more enjoyable for people here in the future. It’s not about the queue getting longer or the number of orders higher. We reached the maximum. The most important thing is and always will be the satisfaction of the people who want to enjoy a burger during their leisure time.