The original Breakfast Bar was like an old fashioned English cafe.
I first discovered it in 1989. Then, through the 90s I visited Amsterdam many times with different groups of friends. Evenings often ended late in places like Abraxas Night Bar, causing us to miss hotel breakfasts. When we eventually rose, I'd lead the party to Barney's for breakfast and the first smoke of the day.
In those days the clientele included a few locals mixing with Irish and British tourists. Compared to more recent times, the weed menu back then featured far fewer fancy names and the prices were more reasonable.
There was a great vegetarian fry up, a healthier vegan breakfast (soya yoghurt and fresh fruit) or a vegeburger in a bun so well packed that it would have a wooden skewer through it to hold it together.
Carnivores were also well catered for with an Irish breakfast (much like a full English with eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.) and an American variation adding a lump of steak to the Irish breakfast. All of the meals could be accompanied with a mug of tea. Perfect!
In 1995 all existing coffeeshops were issued with licences and a process began to reduce numbers by gradually revoking about half of those licences. I think partly as a reaction to this, Barney's Irish owner Derry decided to convert the place from a cool little cafe that also sold grass into a full-on coffeeshop that also sold food. More connoisseur varieties of grass began to appear on the menu and the shop entered the High Times Cannabis Cup. This changed the makeup of the clientele, particularly by bringing in more American tourists.
In 1998 I launched this website with its map showing the location of BBB and, at that time, featuring a rave review. I like to think that further contributed to the increase in people venturing along Haarlemmerstraat.
A New Breakfast Bar
In the winter of 1999 the shop was given a dramatic makeover. The facade got a wood-grain look and inside was sculpted into a sort of cave with moulded organic shapes. The breakfast remained the same though.
By the early noughties, Barney's had become famous and the original shop was bursting at the seams. Expansion began with a new shop a few doors along the street called Barney's Brasserie.
Later, Derry took over coffeeshop Jamaica in the south of the city and renamed it Barney's Lounge.
In 2007 yet another new shop opened opposite the original called Barney's Uptown. This marked the end of breakfast in the original shop. The Breakfast Bar became Barney's Coffeeshop and the Brasserie became Barney's Farm.
This established the extant arrangement. The functions of the old Breakfast Bar are split across the three premises on Haarlemmerstraat. The original shop now concentrates on cannabis sales because the licence to do so is tied to this address. The Farm functions mostly as a smoker's bar, also selling seeds and souvenirs. Its prominent position makes it the shop front for the trio. Uptown is the restaurant, where breakfast has been served since 2007.
In 2009 the shop underwent another overhaul. This time it was gutted and partially rebuilt. It seems that the rickety old building was in need of some serious maintenance.
On completion the facade was painted plain green and inside was made to look like an old-fashioned chemist shop with fake drawer fronts on the wall.
Barney's has changed a lot since the 1980s. Whereas the original little cafe serving breakfast with a bit of weed on the side was a hidden gem, the latest incarnation is more of a corporate empire. One thing I do like about the modern coffeeshop is the Volcano on every table. The food over the road at Uptown is quite good too, although everything is expensive.
Most of these photos were taken by me. Exceptions are the 1980s pictures that came from Kip's Mellow Pages, a wonderful coffeeshop guide book of that era; the 1990s one, which was once scanned from a print, may have been taken by my girlfriend at that time; and the early noughties inside views came from a mate of mine who used to run another website called Amsterdam Coffeeshop Tour.