After the flood First restaurant in Ahrweiler reopens

Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler · Most of the shops and restaurants in the old town of Ahrweiler are still empty. But a small corner restaurant is already welcoming guests again. How did the well-known restaurateur Wilfried Gatzweiler manage to rebuild so quickly?

 Restaurateur Gatzweiler was able to reopen his restaurant Ahrvinum as early as mid-January. Photo: Martin Gausmann

Restaurateur Gatzweiler was able to reopen his restaurant Ahrvinum as early as mid-January. Photo: Martin Gausmann

Foto: Martin Gausmann

It is a small island in the middle of the flood zone: the Ahrvinum in Ahrweiler's old town. The walls of the residential and commercial building have been repainted, the glass panes replaced and there are fresh flowers and candlesticks on the window sills. The entire interior also shines freshly renovated, with light wooden floors, a new bar, a new catering kitchen and 38 seats - divided between the three rooms of the pub, whose first construction phase dates back to 1780.

The toilets are also new. Wilfried Gatzweiler, tenant and owner of the restaurant, shows them off not without pride: "The toilets are a calling card for me in any pub and this has been - with all the catastrophe - a nice way to overhaul our 90s look," says the innkeeper, who runs the wine pub together with his wife Ingrid Aberfeld.

Many shops remain closed after the flood

They have been open again for more than two weeks. This is an absolute exception in Ahrweiler: in the entire Niederhutstraße pedestrian zone, apart from "La Perla" with a to-go offer, not a single hotel or restaurant is open again. In Gatzweiler's direct neighbourhood alone, at the western exit of the market square, he knows of five hotel, restaurant and shop owners who will not reopen after the flood

The fact that the operating couple is already so far along after only six months has a lot to do with the economic skills of the trained administrator. Just three days after the flood, he said, he looked at the federal government's funding programmes after the 2013 Elbe floods and evaluated how much compensation could probably be expected. "And a week later, I ordered furniture, catering supplies, the new kitchen and materials for the interior fittings from all kinds of suppliers," he continues. He agreed with all of them that he would confirm by the end of September whether he would be able to accept the order and negotiated a payment deadline until the end of November in each case.

Criticism of the state government

So the fact that he got back on his feet so quickly is thanks to those companies that agreed to his deal and, above all, to his landlord, who immediately set about rebuilding the whole building, even with his own hands. At the same time, he is annoyed with the state government: "I phoned all the way to the office manager of the Ministry of Economics with my questions." After a lot of effort, they were answered and he was able to submit his application for the reconstruction at the end of September, and on 1 November the money was there.

"Of course, I also had to put a lot into it privately," he says. And he calculates that all in all, only 62 percent of his costs were covered. In turn, he could only manage that because he already receives a pension and was able to take out loans from private acquaintances. "You can't get a loan from the bank as a restaurateur, let alone after Corona and the flood."

To report 23 approved applications as a success, as the state government would have done a few weeks ago during a visit to the Ahr valley, he considers a joke and once again expresses his unease about the government: "The majority of people around are understandably completely overwhelmed with these digital applications.

Gastronomer Gatzweiler hopes for tourists

On the opening weekend, only friends, helpers and acquaintances were in the pub. "In nine years as a restaurateur, I have never experienced an evening when there was so much crying," says the 66-year-old. And he knows that he himself will recount the experiences of the flood a hundred times over. There are already several reservations for the second weekend, "99 percent of them from locals" who want to take a break on his "little island“.

With regional German cuisine with game, fish, a classic schnitzel or a selection of salads and an Ahr wine, you can relax here and forget the sobering sight of the old town. The supply of Ahr wines could still cause problems. But the restaurateur still has enough in stock and is looking for solutions with the vintners.

Tourists are always welcome, he says, but he hopes for a greater flow from summer onwards, when the additional 60 seats on the large outdoor terrace can be covered again. And just this afternoon, a team of workmen is putting the cobblestones back together right in front of Gatzweiler's door - stone by stone.

Twelve outdoor chairs and a large parasol are the only things he has left of the original inventory. Gatzweiler himself gathered them from all over the old town two days after the flood and stacked them in front of the window for use in the summer.

Original text: Raphaela Sabel. Translation: Mareike Graepel

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