This article is, foremost, a declaration of love to Bar Kubcheto in Sofia, including to its bartenders and customers (note 1). It takes the form of an informal, simplified, and quasi-scientific stakeholder analysis, together with an equally simple network analysis. It is also a very personal and tongue-in-cheek article. It is prepared by one customer only (one who happens to love Margaritas – see below), without consulting anybody else.
Kubcheto was established in 1992. In this analysis it is understood – given the alternative terms used for staff and customers (see below) – that Kubcheto is a country, or better a state. The official name is “Art Republic of Kubcheto”, which is very evident from the internal and external design (see top photo). It is a small – well, very small – state, with its own laws, staff and customers. On a more basic level Kubcheto is understood as less a state than a state-of-mind.
Kubcheto has an owner (who is also a customer). The focus here is, however, Kubcheto’s two stakeholder categories:
- Staff (public sector) – The three bartenders (Fabienne, Margie, and Petya) are, in this analysis, referred to as Queens (after all, I am a monarchist, not a republican), and
- Customers (civil society) – In this analysis referred to as citizens.
As employees the Queens, as public sector employees anywhere, follow a set of formal and informal rules. For example, all citizens must leave at 1 AM sharp. It can be concluded that they run a tight ship. Whatever decision that are identified and implemented are, however, presented and understood as suggestions. The Queens’ way of working and operating the bar, and Kubcheto more generally, are marked by individualistic and idiosyncratic approaches. Any differences in management style apart, what they have in common is fundamental and more important than what separates them. This is that they run the place with a smile (or two or more), and with a concern for the customers. The basic goal is that all, Queens and citizens included, are to have a good time.
Among the Queens are bona fide artists, including in painting and photography. Their published work is displaced, and can be purchased.
The result of this management style (see below) is that Kubcheto is a state-of-mind where all contribute to, are marked by, and benefit from a very informal and easy-going way of behaving and interacting.
The citizens are broadly divided in two groups. There is a smaller group, some among whom may show up almost every evening. Next there is a larger group that show up less regularly. Over time, close relationships have developed between Queens and citizens, as a result of which some citizens may prefer to show up on the evenings when their favourite Queen is in residence. Also, some citizens have over time developed informal/formal business relationships, among themselves as well as involving Queens. Two examples: I have engaged one Queen, who has a day-time job as a lawyer, to do work for my consulting firm. Likewise, I have been introduced to a citizen who works in insurance, and who has assisted me in realizing my company’s specific insurance needs.
All citizens appear to live in the vicinity, that is, in Sofia Center. Among the citizens are foreigners, but the majority appear to be Bulgarians. Also, a large majority of the citizens are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, males. For all of them, their Kubcheto citizenship works to give them what can best be characterized as a home away from home.
That is, citizens do not primarily come to consume alcoholic beverages, and certainly not to get drunk. The interactions between the citizens function in some ways like an extended family (to use another anthropological term). Citizens come to relax, to meet friends and colleagues and share news, and all this over a beer or a drink (or a cup of tea or hot chocolate).
The citizens I have met so far appear to be less artistically inclined. They are for the most professionals, and largely work in the private sector.
There are two key aspects of the Queens’ management style: (1) They are women, and (2) They follow, less by design than by tradition, a unique style of management.
First, the Queens are women. Theirs is a matriarchate, that is, a political system where women rule (another anthropological term; this is the anthropologist speaking again). There are no male rulers, nor anyone aspiring to take over and replace any one among the Queens. There are certainly no kings, or kings-in-the-making. The Queens manage it all well alone, and are satisfied with that. So are we, the citizens. Women who rule oftentimes, and certainly in this case, makes for a softer approach to governing (this may or may not apply to the personal/family sphere, but is certainly in the Kubcheto world). One way in which this shows itself, is that Kubcheto citizens by tradition talk to and interact with each other (admittedly, the fact of the bar being so small contributes to this).
Second, the political science and theory of the management style is one that can be termed as enlightened absolutism, or enlightened autocracy. In view of the facts that the bartenders are Queens, and that I am a monarchist, I subjectively chose to characterize the management style as a form of absolute monarchy. This is a political system that has a long tradition throughout European history (especially in continental Europe).
Absolute monarchy is a political system where the rulers accept and appreciate to be influenced by outside information, oftentimes as coming from the citizens. Enlightened monarchs give emphasis to reason and rationality, to tolerance, and to freedom of expression.
In the Kubcheto world and state-of-mind, this absolute monarchy translates into both transparency and sharing: (1) Horizontally, among the Queens and among the citizens, and (2) Vertically, between the Queens and the citizens. In an informal but nonetheless clear sense, citizens contribute to running the place. This is so, partly in that they bring suggestions to the Queens, partly in that they on special occasions bring foods for all to partake of, partly in that they remember birthdays (and certainly Christmas) and share gifts (mostly from citizens to Queens), and partly in that they contribute to the maintenance and upkeep (for example, in bringing out garbage).
From the Queens’ point of view, their job is much more involved than bartending. Their job could perhaps better be termed as hostesses or managers. There is a vertical integration of the tasks they are responsible for, which includes menial tasks like disposing of garbage and cleaning, in the bar and downstairs. Citizens partakes in some of these tasks.
What happens at Kubcheto, including its inner life and its state-of-mind, is a very good example of how social relations evolve over time, and from below, among individuals who get to know each other, and that thrive in each other’s company. The success of such a networked set of social relations can never be created, designed, instituted, and managed from above. It is the result of personal and idiosyncratic relations between individuals that evolve over time.
Cocktails and the Margarita
The Kubcheto Queens excel in it all and, naturally, foremost in bartending. Accordingly, it is clear that their bartending skills needs to be highlighted. And what better way than in the making of one of my favourite cocktails, namely the Margarita. This is a cocktail that I have liked, even loved, since years, and that I have sampled in more or less well-rumoured establishments across several continents and even more countries. They were mostly too sour for my taste. In some cases, I admit to having doubted that correct ingredients were used. Also, the array of different glasses used was impressive (only one type of cocktail glass should be used, see photo). Moving on to Kubcheto, I find that the best way to address the bartending skills of the Queens is to observe how they prepare Margaritas.
The bartending professionalism of Queen Petya stands out (I have not yet had the chance to observe the other two Queens at work, but I am sure their professionalism is at the same level). I truly enjoy observing her at work, preparing exquisite Margaritas with feeling, gusto, and professionalism, and a flair for good handicraft. The photo is of a Margarita prepared on 27 December 2022. A heartfelt Schkkåååll to you, Queen Petya!
The bar is well stocked with beers, wines, and strong liquors. I especially appreciate the selection of whiskies. But there is one item missing, namely the ultimate Ultima Thulean (aka Norwegian) famous drink akevitt (English: aquavit). No professional bar can do without some of the most famous Ultima Thulean aquavits. One that should be available is Linje akevitt (I take it everybody is aware of the story behind this name?). I propose to purchase for Kubcheto a selection of aquavits that can be purveyed to citizens. I consider setting up an aquavit import business.
A further issue, one that I gather Queens and several citizens may be partial to, concerns smoking. I understand that requesting patrons to go outside to smoke represents a problem, certainly late at night, as neighbours may be prone to complaining. Those among the citizens who do not smoke, as myself, do not complain about passive smoking. Perhaps we should? On occasion, a Queen may request that patrons go outside to smoke. Is it not more correct to forbid smoking on the premises? Some citizens may move elsewhere (thereby lose their citizenship), but I doubt this very much. Others will certainly begin to frequent Kubcheto.
We, the citizens of Kubcheto, lift our glasses and express a warm and exuberant Schkkåååll and hail to Kubcheto's wonderful Queens. Without them this would have been a very different place. May both the Queens and we the citizens live long in the Kubcheto state-of-mind!
As of May 2023 it would appear that the bar has no intention of banning smoking, certainly on the short term.
Lars T Soeftestad
1 The heading contains the word "ode". This is a lyric poem written in irregular metre and with a focus on a particular subject. The article addresses a particular subject and is written in irregular metre, but it is not a lyric poem. A better term would be "homage". As the heading determines the article address, it is not possible to change this now.
2 Image credit: The entrance to Bar Kubchito. By Supras Limited, 7 January 2023.
3 Permalink: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/ode-queens-kubcheto
4 This article was published 7 January 2023. It was revised 6 May 2023.
Kubcheto on Facebook (1) - https://www.facebook.com/kubcheto.friends. Note: The page includes reviews of this article, including links to it.
Kubcheto on Facebook (2) - https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100057498158089
Kubcheto on TripAdvisor - https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294452-d10133885-Reviews-Bar_Kubcheto-Sofia_Sofia_Region.html