Kavárna Švanda, Bastion of Brno’s Counter-Culture, To Close With Farewell Party

Kavárna Švanda, a mainstay of Brno’s counter-cultural scene since 2004, announced its closure last weekend due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the anti-epidemic measures. On Saturday, a benefit concert will be held in support of the owner and his family, who are experiencing financial difficulties related to the closure. All extra proceeds will be donated to charity. Photo Credit: Anna Stranska.

Brno, June 4 (BD) – Kavárna Švanda opened in Brno’s Alfa pasáž on December 23rd, 2004. Since then, the cafe/pub/gallery/meeting place run by proprietor Roman Švanda has become one of the city’s most cherished and notorious drinking holes and cultural centres, especially for the art and theatre communities. Over the years, the cafe has hosted art exhibitions, concerts, charity events, theatrical performances, countless post-production drinks from next-door HaDivadlo, and was even the location for a 24-hour real-time documentary film.

Last weekend, however, the cafe announced its closure after 16 years, due to the insurmountable pressures placed on the business by the pandemic and the associated measures. Švanda is just one of many pubs, restaurants, and cafes which will not reopen after the lockdown, but its closure will leave an outsized hole in the city’s social fabric. 

One of Švanda’s expat štamgasti summed up his feelings about the closure: “The first pub I ever drank at in Brno. It was love at first sight. So many crazy nights started and ended there! Nothing will ever substitute the atmosphere in Švanda – I’m heartbroken that those days are over.” But aside from the often eye-openingly wild party atmosphere, Švanda also channelled a tangible sense of community, attracting waifs and strays, artists and hustlers, thinkers and actors, from the very young to the very old. 

Photo: Bartender in Kavárna Švanda. Credit: Anna Stranska.

As another regular expat visitor told Brno Daily: “Švanda was the first place I knew in Brno. It is the spirit of Brno. A jewel in the nooks. It’s a place for broken souls to rest for a while and gather up the pieces that were left of it. It was a haven. A sanctuary for a nomad, home for the artists and freedom for the creative spirits.” The cafe’s closure announcement echoed this point, describing it as “a womb of ideas and good mood, and a soothing amalgam for aching souls”, and this much was clear to any visitor, as one of the few places in Brno where one could observe the new wave of hipster foreigners drinking shoulder to shoulder with the city’s homeless community, often deep in discussion with each other. There is no doubt that the cafe’s absence will be keenly felt by many.

To mark the closure, a benefit concert will take place on Saturday, to raise money for owner Roman Švanda and his family, who are experiencing significant financial problems related to the closure. Starting from the early afternoon, this all-day event in the vicinity of Celní tram stop (map) will feature a full program of performing artists from Brno’s rich alternative heritage, including Načeva & Tomáš Vtípil, Pavel Fajt, and Mucha. You can find more information about the event here. Attendees must be vaccinated against, tested for, or have had a recent case of Covid-19. All excess funds raised by the event will be donated to charity.

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