Never Far From Strife, Buddha Bar Takes New Road

The Jakarta Globe

Brushing off the controversy that marred its short run in Jakarta, the former Buddha Bar will soon reopen as Bistro Boulevard.

When the Buddha Bar set up shop in the pre-World War I Bataviasche Kunstskring (Batavia Art Circle) building in October 2008, it was the first of the global chain of cocktail lounges to open in Asia.

However, the bar soon found itself at the center of controversy as religious groups protested its name and the use of Buddha statues as decorations in the bar and restaurant. It was eventually ordered to shut down last year.

In a recent statement, the management of the restaurant, Nireta Vista Creative, said it had donated the colossal Buddha statue to one of Jakarta’s Buddhist temples.

“This action marks the end of a franchise settlement between Buddha Bar Jakarta and Buddha Bar worldwide,” it said.

However, a new controversy is brewing, with some groups questioning ongoing renovation work in the building. In January, Jakarta

Building Control and Monitoring Office (P2B) sealed the property because management had failed to obtain an official renovation permit.

Hendri Marheroso, the operational manager of Bistro Boulevard, said on Friday that although management was still waiting for a formal renovation permit, it had the “green light” from the Jakarta Culture and Tourism Office to conduct renovation work.

“It’s because rain water leaked inside the building and there was the possibility that it could cause significant damage, so we had to fix it,” Hendri said, adding that although management was still waiting for a renovation permit, it had already secured a business permit.

On Wednesday, Arie Budiman, the head of the Jakarta Culture and Tourism Office, said the governor had asked that the building be turned into an art gallery.

Hendri said the art gallery would be the part of the restaurant. “This building is a cultural heritage building which means it is a public space, so we will open an art gallery in the lobby and an exhibition hall on the second floor,” he said.

Ade Purnama, the founder and director of Friends of the Museum, or Batmus, said it was good that the building was being managed by a private operator.

“The private sector usually knows how to care for museums or cultural heritage better than the government,” he said. “As long as they do not change the building, the government should just let them [renovate it] as it will make the building more lively.”

The new restaurant will open in two weeks.

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