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ENGLISH VERSION: "This isn’t how you deal with each other in the scene"
White-Trash founder Walter Potts talks about the takeover plans of the Festaal Kreuzberg
If life were a wish concert, the Berlin clubs and musicians would live side by side with each other and look forward to the success of each other. But especially since the showbiz is not a sugar lick, and in Berlin with four concerts playing daily at the same time, there rages here, a fierce fight for locations. Other things that can happen here behind the scenes, recently showed themselves in a most ugly way.
After the supposedly happy report had circulated the rounds in November about the reopening of the Festaal Kreuzberg in their new location, at the White Trash, the denouncement came quickly: Foul play, said White Trash founder Walter Potts. White Trash and the Festsaal manager Björn von Swieykowski did not agree on anything, especially not that Festsaal should take over White Trash. We asked Walter Potts what’s up at the white trash what this story about the reopening of the festival hall is all about. (We also asked Björn von Swieykowski for an interview, but he would prefer to comment on the situation only after 16 December.)
Walter, you filed for bankruptcy in the spring. What do you think, why is it that the White Trash did not work at the location at the Treptower Park?
Walter Potts: The space was not easy to come to terms with, but we managed it, now it works. Before we came, Falk Walter had just gone bankrupt with the Arena and nobody wanted to do anything on the grounds. Not even the crew of the Festsaal. The hall, which we’re talking about, was still empty as the Festsaal hall burnt down. But we were sure that we could build up something here, with a lot of work and the well-known brand White Trash Fast Food. That has always worked well for us. The White Trash was always well frequented, and the bankruptcy administrator realized at that time that the core business could be saved. What broke our back was first a breakdown in the financing and then the incredible construction delays at the hall. If it had went as we had planned, we would finished in six months instead of two years, then we wouldn’t have had any problems even with the breakdown of funding. But unfortunately the bankruptcy came, as we were very close to the goal. That is bitter. The nice thing is the great interest now suddenly, about what we’ve built, shows the potential that we have created here.
How has the insolvency proceeded so far and what steps have you taken since then?
The bankruptcy proceedings were opened on June 1, 2016 and Udo Feser was appointed as administrator. Since then the operation has continued normally. At the same time, I tried to find a partner who would like to invest in the last few meters to make the business profitable. I was in negotiation with various interested parties, but unfortunately unsuccessful. In October, I had the idea of speaking to the guys from the Festsaal Kreuzberg. Their venue had burned down and I always a fan what they had done there. I thought this could be a good independent underground coalition. Alex Hacke from the "Einstürzenden Neubauten" suggested the contact. I met Björn, Teka and Christopher, shared with them all the details of my company and we thought about how we could become partners in the future. I was very surprised when they suddenly called off the deal on Halloween, a day before the decision should be made, with a phone call, they said they were not interested in a partnership with White Trash. It was a fortunate coincidence that Markus Kühn of FluxFM happened to be right next to me, and overheard the call. He said I should send him the figures. A few days later we agreed, and formed a plan for a common future of the White Trash.
And how did the takeover of Festaal Kreuzberg, Astra, Lido, Bi Nuu and Kalkscheune take place? To what extent has the White Trash been included in the decision?
That is what is so incredible. Through the media information of Björn von Swieykowski the impression was made in public that the takeover had already happened - perhaps this was also a strategy. And perhaps Torsten Brandt (owner of Astra, Lido and Bi Nuu, Editor), was behind the scheme using the Festaal crew and their sad story, to secure his fourth Venue. Behind the scenes, a tough fight for contolling venues and concerts is raging in Berlin. But, so far there was definitely no real takeover. This is to be decided only on a creditors’ meeting on 16 December. Both concepts, that of FluxFM/Trinity and that of Festaal/Torsten Brandt/Kalkscheune, are to be presented and then a dicision will be made. We can only say what we think is best, the decision in the end will be made by the creditor's and the house owner. And of course, we hope very much that FluxFM / Trinity will get the vote, because, for me, my family, my employees, this fight is for everything. They have no future anymore if the Festaal and Torsten Brandt get the decision.
Why are you generally against a takeover by Festaal Kreuzberg and Co.?
Because we do not know what exactly their plans are. We only know that they are without White Trash. Since they backed out of the deal, they don’t answer the phone anymore and haven’t responded to any emails. Instead they came right in, and told our staff that they would be able to work in their other locations in the future. This of course has all terribly frightened everyone. And me as well. After all, this project is my life. I have built the concept of White Trash Fast Food for the last 15 years. The extreme amount of energy, money, and work, of me, my family and my team that we invested for four years in the space at the Flutgraben, transforming an empty factory building to an amazing venue with restaurant and beer garden. Apart from that, you don’t deal with one another like this in the scene. The relationship with the people of FluxFM and Trinity is quite different - they are open, honest, understand something from the scene in which we are into, and are nevertheless very professional.
“for me, my family, my employees, this fight is for everything. They have no future anymore if the Festaal and Torsten Brandt are awarded the decision. “
Why is the whole thing now been made so public?
We were all very surprised that Björn from the Festaal on 16 November sent this press release to all Berlin editorial offices, stating that the Festsaal would now move into our space, leaving nothing from the White Trash except the location. He also told VICE that he wanted to shut down the business, and that there would be a "real opening". This made everyone totally scared of course, and then it was necessary that I make sure that everyone knows that nothing is decided yet. Sure, it would have been better for me if the people of the Festsaal had spoken to me. But in the end I am happy with the great interest of the media, because this shows that we have done something really significant here.
In your current press release, you write: "Fortunately, with the Partners, Flux FM and Trinity, I have found a solution to save the White Trash and the jobs of all of our employees.” What does this solution look like?
First of all, we have a solid financing to finally finish the construction work. They are very professional and have already checked and verified everything with building engineers and architects. We have planned everything so that we can do it all without disturbing the normal operation. At the same time, the new two partners compliment us very well, and will bring many events into the hall, which of course also improves the turnover in the restaurant. They will also bring with them gastro-professionals who help me to optimize the processes. This is really a totally holistic thing and would mean that we finally finish our concept allowing White Trash and all employees to stay here.
We want to continue to operate the restaurant just as before and finally put the hall to good use. The combination of delicious California-Style bio-food and cool concerts is not really being done like this in Berlin.
On December 16, 2016, the White Trash's future will be decided. We keep you up to date on all developments.
Der Festsaal Kreuzberg soll ins White Trash Food Food einziehen. Was wie ein schönes Indiemärchen klang, wurde bald zum bitteren Platzkampf in Berlin.