When on 9th June 1979 Klub književnika got closed, journalist Bogdan Tirnanić, one of the numerous people from the cultural milieu of that period whose life was intrinsically liked to this restaurant, said that a nuclear bomb fell on Belgrade nightlife. “When such a special place disappears, even temporarily, it leads to an essential change in the nature of our daily life which is, in terms of places to go out, so poor that it turns into a cultural problem”, Tirnanić said. How would you describe Belgrade nightlife today? What place does Klub književnika hold in it after so many years, and after all the changes that have happened in the country, in our way of life, on a social, political, cultural level?
KK is a restaurant which is not only that, but has turned into social, cultural, and even political segments of Belgrade life, thus still representing an important venue in Belgrade nightlife. Our dear Tirke was, therefore, right when he said that everything essentially changes when KK is not there.
For more than 70 years, KK has been a meeting point of people who enjoyed good atmosphere and the Belgrade cosmopolitan spirit. One of the proofs is that the organizers of all the cultural and social events in Belgrade always try to bring their guests to KK at least once, so they can see the special atmosphere in the famous Belgrade cellar. That is how it has been in the past 70 years, and that is how things, I believe, will remain in the future.
How challenging is it to keep in step with the times, while staying true to one’s initial mission?
Very. Today, when everything is progressing at warp speed, one has to keep in step with the times. Some of us are witnessing an unbelievably fast technological development in all areas, but as for me, I have realized that it is important to stay visible in social networks where we can inform our guests about the events in the restaurant. Moreover, the new technologies have made the work itself more efficient, which has led to the situation that the things which seemed like science fiction only a couple of years ago, have now become completely common. Naturally, none of that has prevented us from staying true to our original mission, which is presenting our city in the best possible light, and leaving a good impression on anyone who visits KK.
How would you define the restaurant mission today?
Exactly as it was defined by its founders. Friendly relationship with the guests, good food prepared with love, and that’s it. It might sound simple, but that is the essence of every restaurant.
What do you think are the good sides of hospitality business in Serbia, and which segments could be improved?
The good side is its diverse offer and its quality. You can enjoy oriental specialities and then order a dessert which represents classic French cuisine. I see that as the most important quality and it needs to be worked upon. Another thing that can be improved is the skill of the people in this business, since people are the most important factor in every business.
The restaurant Klub književnika is still a symbol of an authentic, intimate atmosphere which is appreciated by all your guests, but also symbolizes your attitude to them. What is necessary for a good communication which inspires loyalty?
Trust and mutual understanding. We have been conducting a survey among the guests, i.e. we have offered an opportunity to our guests to suggest and participate in the creation of the menu.
Unless I am mistaken, you have been in this business for over ten years. Which aspect of it do you find most fulfilling?
The people I meet, who share their life experience. A restaurant is a place where someone you meet for the first time can share a very interesting and wise story “about a friend”. There are not many places in Belgrade where you can exchange opinions with people who are renowned in what they do, like you can here.
Klub Književnika is one of the oldest partners of Bitef Festival. Why was Bitef chosen back then, and why is it still chosen now after so many years?
Why Bitef… because Bitef has always been a theatre avantgarde, and KK used to be avantgarde in restaurant business at its beginning. Today, we are, if I may say so, a classic Belgrade cannot do without. That is the link, I think…
Which Bitef guests have you hosted that you remember most?
To be honest, I don’t remember the guests anymore… But the first person that comes to mind when we talk about Bitef is Mr. Jovan Ćirilov.
The performance you will not miss in this year’s programme?
Requiem for L. I have heard that it is a music performance, and that is what made me decide. Besides, I am curious to see how a performance will combine an intimate story about death with social and political issues, and the problems like chauvinism, right-wing movements, and authoritarian regimes. I believe in the choice of the selectors who have decided that this performance should close the festival.