Wherever you go, almost everyone will know disco/café ’t Bölke in Enschede. Party Center ’t Bölke is celebrating its forty year anniversary, breaking the age record of gay clubs in the Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg).
The kick-off for the celebrations was the “Open Air” festival held on the Oude Markt in Enschede on the 19th of July. The festival was larger than ever before and had a line-up featuring Pia Douwes, Blush, CPG and spectacular dance acts, fashion and drag shows.
The music came from resident djs Justin Strikes, Martin Rivera, Roelz, Maarten & Bob. It was a fantastic party with thousands of visitors. Till the end of the year there are various festivities planned to celebrate the forty-year anniversary. On Sunday the 16th of December there will be a reception for invites and a fabulous party with several artists and acts. Check out www.bolke.nl for all information and a complete overview.
How Did It All Start?
In 1972 the gentlemen Van der Slikke and De Jong bought dancing ’t Bölke from Hans Visscher. Until then it had been a successful mainstream club, especially well-known for its live performances. The acquisition turned out a great success, for Twente and the entire German border region. The new owners introduced a strict door policy and soon the place turned into a gay oasis, where everyone could be just who they wanted to be.
Their success drew other business interest to Enschede. Places like Spoortje, Bergerac, Harry’s, Farao, Big Apple, Baccara opened their doors to gay customers. These were difficult times for ’t Bölke, as with every new business opening up it saw its customers dwindle. But fortunately they kept coming back to the “gay Center” of Enschede. Within ’t Bölke things also were also changing often, the exploitation and management of the business going from one to the other. In 1990 everything took a new turn when Frans Loohuis and Hans Oude Heuvel bought the place. ’t Bölke was drastically renovated, the ancient interior was transformed into a modern club.
Everything was going just fine from then, until the government decided to introduce new legislation with much tighter sound restrictions for music.
’t Bölke was forced to move location. They found a new place just a few doors down and a hectic time followed.
On the second floor of the new location (which is now ’t Bölke) they quickly fixed a temporary bar, while they were constructing a new club on the ground floor, everything was done in four weeks! Frans: “It was insane, constructing a new business while keeping the bar running.
But we wanted more and more, in the end we even constructed a gay sauna in the building with all sorts of facilities. ’t Bölke is the only venue in Europe, combining a bar, club and a sauna.”
What’s So Special About ’t Bölke?
Running a gay club involves more than just draw a beer or pour a stiff drink. Hospitality is very important. There’s more to ’t Bölke, as one can see from the activities that took place over the past years. All kinds of themes with wild decorations.
With Halloween the club is transformed into a haunted castle and with Burlesque Extravaganza the place was an exclusive bordello.
The amazing Foam and Swim Parties are also classic with the swimming pool included in the party space; these parties pull punters from all over The Netherlands and Germany as well.
The most important thing is that people have a good time together. There are resident DJs who also have gigs in Amsterdam, Gran Canaria and various other locations. In short: come to Enschede for a good party!
’t Bölke’s Sauna
After the business had moved they found the new venue so big that they thought of introducing a sauna. They started small but it turned out so popular that they needed to extend the facilities.
Frans and Hans: “We planned to start off small but when it’s full all the time you just have to extend.” So they added a pool, a Jacuzzi and extra steam baths, relax rooms, a larger dressing room and a smoking lounge.
The sauna now encompasses 1200 square meters over four floors. Whether you’re looking for action or relaxation, you’ll always find what you’re looking for in the sauna of ’t Bölke.
You can enjoy an excellent meal with a glass of wine too, the menu changes regularly and there’s always a day special.
You can even eat without going into the sauna in the café, which is open every Sunday from 4 p.m.
The sauna also has regular theme days, like the Sauna & Foam Party or Young & Wet every first Friday of the month.
Weddings and Parties
It is also possible to get married at ’t Bölke, and it’s available as a party location with or without catering, a smorgasbord, fresh sushi / oysters or other luxury snacks. Everything is possible, even themed entertainment and decor can be arranged.
There were plenty of rumors in the past that the business was going to be sold, or would simply close. The municipality is developing various plans for the area but for the time being ’t Bölke will remain where it is now. Frans and Hans: “We’re not thinking of stopping, to the contrary, we love the work and we have plenty of plans for further extensions, about which we can’t say anything yet. One thing is certain, we are very proud of what we’ve achieved over the past years and we’re looking forward to what is to come. So, together with all our fantastic staff, we’d like to thank everyone for a fabulous time. We hope that things will only get better and that you’ll all be there with us to enjoy it.”