Stepping into the Monterey Bar is like walking into your friend’s living room; the welcoming, relaxed, atmosphere perfectly exemplifies the German word “Gemütlichkeit”. The bar is about music and good times. Every type of music is played from Stoner, Rock , Psych, Prog, Folk, Metal, funk, Soul, Blues, classic & rare. Monterey bar is the only bar on Prenzlauerberg to offer a selection of craft and local beers; Flessa Brau and Hopfenstopfer to name a few. More taps are scheduled to be built so that craft beers can be offered not only from the bottle but also from tap. I recently had the opportunity to chat with the owner and learn more about the bar.
Monterey opened in September 2013 and is named after the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, which took place in Monterey, CA. It’s located on the southern tip of the Pacific coast and for a long time it´s been synonymous with music and nature. The festival helped ignite the careers of legendary artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Janis Joplin and is regarded as the prototype open air Rock festival.
A special batch of Monterey Purple LSD was made for this festival by the “Acid King ” Owlsley Stanley, sound tech for The Grateful Dead; but this doesn´t explain why the bar is purple in colour. There are quite a few photo´s around the bar from the festival and even one of Owlsey.
“I don´t know if this is an extension of my personality or not; some of the décor, like the crystal skulls, the Wizard mural, the Black Sabbath picture frame, the Betty page spanking one and the Retro 80´s arcade machine. They´re are just things that I like. I wanted the bar to feel comfortable but also have a bit of a fun, mysterious side. I like when you go somewhere and can get a little lost in your own world or in the vibe of the place.”
There are so many personal touches in the bar, like the frames, the wallpaper, the couches, the glass behind the bar, light fixtures and some of the influence for the décor comes form the music that’s played at Montery; it can be heavy, it can be soulful. There’s a pretty varied age group; which is great and what makes the place – the people who go there.
“There´s some pretty Doomy red light behind the bar and some vivid psychadelic colours in the backroom as well as some Gothic looking light fixtures and vintage furniture. I like traditional old pubs with wooden bars and comfortable old furniture. They feel really cozy and friendly like a local bar should be.
Some guests say the bar feels a bit like somebody´s lounge room the way the furniture is laid out. A French girl described the rock décor; the purple, red and gold colours as being “savagely cute” which I thought was a nice compliment.”
The personal atmosphere is a direct result of creating the space, working with friends to make it what is it. “It was friends that helped with the painting, laying the wall paper, fixing light fittings etc. It was actually my wife who made the final decision on the colour scheme. The furniture was inherited from the previous owner and I guess we just arranged it how we liked it and added a few more bits & pieces.”
“I´ve always wanted to own a bar and when this opportunity came along at this location. I knew I had to do it. It´s been used for gastronomy for over 40 years and has had many different faces.
It´s a bit of a meeting place for bands in the scene but it is definitely not pretentious. We have lots of groups of friends drop by but just as many single people who like to come by and have a drink and chat with others or do their own thing. It´s nice to see a few people from other countries who see the bar as their local too.
I´d like it to be known as friendly, local bar that plays good music and has a good atmosphere. There are actually 5 bars within 400m of the Monterey bar that are pretty cool in their own way. There is definitely lots going on in this part of Prenzlauerberg that some people might find surprising. I´d like the bar to be one of those in the area that people like to visit.”
You have two original murals by Berlin artists on the walls – one by Frau Benz and Bo-ing, How important is it to you to include locals from the art and music scene? Did you ask them for something specific, give them free reign or was it more of a collaboration/discussion?
“It´s funny you should ask this as Bo-ing who painted the Wizard mural plays in a Stoner rock, Doom metal band called Deaf Avenger and is a regular at the bar and known in both the local music scene as well as Berlin´s urban art scene. I didn´t know he played in that band when I asked him to do the piece. He already knew the bar and has also designed record covers for local band The Operators.
Frau Benz is a good friend of Bo-ing and they collaborate on lots of projects. Her psychedelic piece just fits so well with his piece. She has a unique style and does lots of designs for skate board decks and snowboards. When we invited her to talk about the project she loved the idea we had and pretty much started working on it immediately. She is so talented. I’ve always loved her work so it was fantastic to have her work on this.
The piece by Bo-ing was an idea I had and he was so good getting it done. It´s not easy working with artists sometimes but he was really open to the idea and clearly exceeded my expectations with the quality of his work. It´s not really a case of including artists from the scene. We wanted a really mind blowing work of art in the backroom that people could look at again and again and not get tired of. There is certainly a few people with big bushy wizard beards that come by this place so it doesn´t look out of place.”
We have DJ´s Friday and Saturday nights, who are mostly guys and girls from the local rock scene. Just recently we´ve had members of Samsara Blues Experiment, Coogans Bluff, The Operators and Suns of Thyme DJ on different nights aswell some of best doing the rounds such as the Up-Tight DJ´s, Rob Zim and DJ Bettibikepunk and DJ Blow up. Some nights we´ll have a harder 70´s Rock , bluesy , stoner set. On other nights you´ll get a cool garage, psych, progressive, punk vibe.
We like to keep an open-minded view and keep things interesting and varied. The Monterey is about celebrating good music. We´ve got some bar staff that are really passionate about music so you can also hear some great tunes on the nights we don´t have DJ´s scheduled.
The kinds of people who hang out at Monterey are a pretty eclectic mix; local people in the neighborhood and local and international musicians. It´s not uncommon to have bands from other cities who´ve just played a gig swing by for a beer or 3.
There´s always different people speaking different languages and I like that. It´s pretty cool overhearing a group of Italian guys talking about Jimi Hendrix and Marshall amps or seeing Danish girls wearing rock t-shirts. People who come to the Monterey enjoy the music and the friendly atmosphere. That’s the type of people we like.”
Stop by the Monterey Bar; they’re open daily from 8pm and located at Danziger Strasse 61, 10435 Berlin. This summer, from 4pm on, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite beverage outside in the Stoner Rock Bier Garten. Don’t fret if there’s not enough time to lounge, you’ll also be able to get that beverage to go whether it’s a milkshake, caipirinha or mojito.