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Jakarta Post

Regulars bid farewell to Jakarta'€™s oldest bar

Regulars bid farewell to Jakarta'€™s oldest bar
Sita W. Dewi
Jakarta   ●   Mon, May 5, 2014

Closing time: Long-time loyal customers enjoy the last party at Jaya Pub in Central Jakarta on Saturday night. The 39-year-old iconic bar will relocate to the second floor of a building just a few meters away to make way for river inspection roads, as regulated by the Jakarta administration. JP/DON

Expatriates and locals thronged to the Jaya Pub, Jl. MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta, on Saturday night, exuberantly singing along with the house band and celebrating the last party at the pub before it moves to a new location not too far away.

For many expats working and living in Jakarta, Jaya Pub, nestled in among the tall buildings of the city center was among a handful of places that made them feel at home.

'€œ[Jaya Pub] reminds me of pubs in Europe. It'€™s a place to meet nice people and enjoy music,'€ Matteo Meacci, a Jakarta-based Italian chef, said, adding that '€œMy girlfriend brought me there on our second date and I instantly liked it.'€

A Japanese man working in Jakarta, Paul, said he hung-out there '€œalmost every night'€.

For veteran actor Frans Tumbuan, the founder and owner of Jaya Pub, it is a place where some important memories were made.

'€œWhen it was opened, Jaya Pub was a place where my friends, anti-government people, like [respected poets] late WS Rendra and Sjuman Djaya, gathered.'€

'€œI remember I put up seven magazines, which were banned by the Soeharto regime, on the walls. My wife [veteran actress Rima Melati] got a call from our friend in the government, who asked '€˜was your husband a socialist?'€™ Our friend [former tourism minister] Joop Ave told us that this issue was even discussed at the Presidential Palace,'€ Frans recalled, while laughing.

Despite all the changes in Jakarta, Jaya Pub remained the same throughout its 39 years of operation and that was what most regulars loved about the bar: The ambience created by the dark wood, stained walls and not to mention the old cigarette ads offering patrons witty gems of wisdom like '€œThis mess is a place'€ or '€œForget the dog. Beware of the owner'€.

Over the years, the iconic Jaya Pub grew to attract more than those who had grown up in the 1970s. A few years back, Frans'€™ daughter Keke Tumbuan along with Indra Ameng, who manages the Ruang Rupa art space, began Superbad, a monthly gig held at Jaya Pub, which managed to attract a younger crowd.

'€œAt first I was worried that my regulars would be mad because of the gig, but I trust my daughter. After one Superbad gig, I met a regular '€” an old New Yorker '€” and he said cheerily '€˜Frans, last night was great! It reminds me of Harlem!'€™ He even spread the word to the diplomatic circle so I was happy,'€ Frans told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the farewell party.  

In the middle of the farewell night event, Frans took to the stage and explained that Jaya Pub needed to relocate to make way for the construction of inspection roads for the rivers, as regulated by a gubernatorial decree. '€œIt'€™s for the greater good,'€ he said.

He also promised that the new Jaya Pub, which will be located on the second floor of a building a few meters away, would keep the same ambiance and even the decorations.

'€œThere will be a soft opening next Saturday,'€ he cited.

While feeling sad that the iconic bar would probably not be the same again, Sonoko, a Japanese woman who has worked in Jakarta for over a decade, was still hopeful that the management would be able to live up to the regulars'€™ expectations.

'€œI know the new place will be good too but it will be different. But I know these people will make history again,'€ she said.