From a vacant restaurant to a pop-up ice cream bar

Isn’t it great if you can make a small business you’ve always wanted to make, without the big investors, long-term leases and designed interior? How about being a temporary owner of a vacant restaurant and testing your new business for 6 months?

Around the corner of our street, an entire building block is announced to be demolished. A Chinese restaurant has left a while ago, leaving a dark-, empty space. Few weeks ago, I noticed that something started to happen – the space has been cleaned; white paint has washed the wall. Soon after, a flyer arrived to announce the opening of the ice cream bar.

In just few weeks, the ice cream bar opened its door, transformed the vacant restaurant space and is now successfully seducing the curious crowd. So who is behind it and what has made this pop-up bar work?

‘I wanted to start my own business and happened to see this vacant space’, said Roos – the owner and the young entrepreneur of this temporary ice cream bar. ‘Nobody knows when this building block will be demolished, so I simply seize the chance to start up my business’.  As a temporary owner of the space, Roos had to appropriate the restaurant space in order to keep the investment low, and to furnish the space as soon as possible since there is only a temporary lease. This improvising character actually makes her space very inviting to the by-passers. People feel very comfortable to step in and to chat with Roos. ‘Yes, that’s also what I intend to create – to make people feel like home’.

Now you can easily get a ball of ice cream plus a cup of coffee together for less than 3 euro (these days, a cup of coffee in Amsterdam already costs you 3 euro). Customers start to improvise the service together with Roos. ‘Requests called in for kids birthday parties. So I’ve initiated workshops to make some crafts and ice cream together with the kids, for example.

While having an ice cream at Roos’ bar, I heard people chatting and fancying to see more this kind of temporary initiatives in Amsterdam. Temporary stores prove to attract attention which helps to draw potential future tenants, but still many storefronts in the city are left vacant. I wonder if there could be a new kind of match-make platform that helps starter entrepreneurs to nest in vacant properties (for example, popupsquare)? It should be a different one from the current retail property’s website: it should be able to match small-scale initiatives to urban niche spaces and to obtain the temporary permit [1] more easily.

According to Roos, it’s really difficult to acquire a commercial property to run a temporary bar / restaurant in Amsterdam. ‘I am really luck to have this chance. All the commercial properties are simply too expansive for starters‘, said Roos. I hope Roos could continue serving her cost-friendly ice cream and could benefit from this temporary initiative which might be the stepping stone for her future ice cream business [2].

[1] In Amsterdam, a temporary (pop-up) bar/or restaurant needs a temporary lease as well as a catering permit (in Dutch: horecavergunningen) which costs quite some bucks to obtain.
[2] Station Roos will stay at this location til January 2013, and will serve various food such as lunch and warm snacks in winter time. You can keep track with her activities at


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