On October 16th, 2011, N.V. H.C.R. Hotel De Roode Leeuw celebrated its centenary in Amsterdam. It was a wonderful party at the Nieuwe Kerk and with it we started our second century in hospitality.
Back in the 15th century De Roode Leeuw was already a well known inn. The first deed of ownership dates back to 1454. Its building was located on Dam Square in the location where you can nowadays find Madame Tussauds and Peek & Cloppenburg. This building was torn down in 1838. After that, coffee house De Roode Leeuw relocated to Vijgendam 22 until this building was also demolished in 1911.
Two members of the Board of Amstel Breweries, Jhr. Ernest de Pesters and Jhr. Pierre H. Bicker initiated today's De Roode Leeuw, and on the 16th of October, 1911 they incorporated the N.V. tot Exploitaite van Hotel Café Restaurant De Roode Leeuw. De Roode Leeuw is still owned by descendants of the original owners, which makes it unique in the Amsterdam hospitality industry.
The fist general manager of De Roode Leeuw was Jos van Eugen. During its first year the new hotel-restaurant already made a profit of Dfl. 78.00. Traveling salesmen and people working over at the stock exchange were frequent guests of the hotel. The Amsterdam Realtors Society (MVA) held weekly meetings at De Roode Leeuw since its inception on June 28, 1877, first at the old location on the Vijgendam, and later at the new Damrak hotel venue. At first the hotel only had 35 rooms, but in 1918 the buildings at the back of the hotel were acquired to expand this number, and the hotel now occupied the whole block in between the Nieuwendijk and the Damrak. The space on the ground floor at the back of the hotel remained stores, the rest of the building was used to create additional rooms.
General Manager Jos von Eugen did not live to see this project completed, as he died quite unexpectedly in 1919. The restaurant was much bigger at that time and had pool tables at the back. The kitchens were located on the mezzanine level.
In 1919 Jos Mustert became General Manager. In 1928 he faced disappointing results. Even though the hotel was profitable, profits had been expected to reach much higher levels because of the Olympic Games taking place in Amsterdam that year . In 1931 it was decided to head into a different direction. Mr. J.F. Staal, General Manager of the Kransapolsky hotel was asked to act as supervisor. Mr. Mustert died in 1933 and was succeeded by Mr. Staal who managed to finish the year 1933 with strong profits. The years after, the global crisis hit and severe cost cutting was necessary to keep the hotel in business.
During the war, many members of our staff were forced to work in Germany. Others failed to show up at all or were caught stealing goods from the hotel inventory. After the war, the hotel was confiscated to become a "leave" center of the Canadian Army. Several maids were dismissed because of loose conduct or too friendly relations with male guests. In 1946 Mr. P. v.d. Bergh and his wife were hired as manager and from 1955 as General manager, still under the supervision of Mr. Staal.
The planned modernisation of the hotel in 1956 was hotly debated. Mr. Staal was strongly opposed to the installation of private toilets, showers and bathrooms. He was afraid that the reduction in the number of rooms and higher rates would threaten the profitability of the hotel. He was adamant that Dutch guests would not be prepared to pay more than ƒ 8.-- including breakfast. De Roode Leeuw had originally been designed by architect Foeke Kuipers. In 1956/7 the 4th and 5th floor were remodelled and as a result the building no longer exhibited the signature style of this architect.
The Damrak wouldn't be The Damrak without the terrace of hotel De Roode Leeuw. It started out as an open terrace, but in 1935 it was converted to a closed one. It's still one of the oldest of its kind in Amsterdam. The plans for a beautiful new terrace are ready and soon you'll be able to admire it.
Mr Staal died in 1962 and Mr. van den Berg one year later. Mr. Staal was succeeded by Mr. A.F.J. Nachbahr. He took the helm at a point in time when the hotel badly needed to be renovated and society as a whole was changing rapidly. Provo's, beatniks, the so called Dampslapers, people sleeping on Dam Square by the monument, and large scale demonstrations were the order of the day. This combined with a weak economy caused the number of English and Dutch guests to drop sharply. In 1972 the hotel received its 2nd star.
In 1988 Mr. Nachbahr retired after 25 years of service. Mr. S.H. de Goede took over. Big investments were carried out to be ready for the future. The state-of-the-art kitchen of De Roode Leeuw still dates from that period. At the same time the restaurant became member of "Nederlands Dis" an association promoting Dutch regional cuisine. Although "Nederlands Dis" does not exist anymore, Dutch specialties still dominate the menu of our restaurant. The meeting rooms of the first floor were transformed into rooms and the capacity of the hotel went up to 79 rooms. In 1998 Mr. de Goede was forced to step down because of severe health problems.
Mr. René Wildeman started as General-Manager in January 1999. After an education at the well-known Hotel School of Lausanne and 16 years in several luxury properties in Switzerland he came to Amsterdam as General-Manager of the Swissôtel, the neighbor of Hotel Amsterdam-De Roode Leeuw. He decided to make Hotel Amsterdam-De Roode Leeuw less dependent on leisure travellers and to more actively pursue the corporate market. In 2000 and 2001 all rooms were refurbished, and all of our rooms got internet access. It was also at that time that the internet started to take off as an important booking channel. During the years to follow the restaurant, the lobby, and the bathrooms were completely refurbished. In 2011 we started with a major overhaul of our rooms, which was completed by the beginning of 2013.
All rooms have recently received all new large flat screen televisions and the possibility to access the internet from the room through fiber broadband WiFi and wired internet connections, which are free of charge.
At the end of 2014 a new chapter begins, as Rob Veeger will take over the helm from Mr. Wildeman as the hotel's general manager.