Famous fast food stand to disappear from in front of Warsaw landmark after 30 years

A famous fast food stand located in front of Warsaw’s iconic Palace of Culture and Science is set to disappear after over three decades. The owner, who has been operating the premises without permission in recent years, has now given up his fight to keep it open.

However, some local residents have launched a campaign in support of the business, and will this weekend hold a rave at the site.

Bar Lussi opened in 1991, amid Poland’s transition to a market economy following decades of communist rule. Its current owner, Sebastian Rymbiewski, is the son of the couple who founded it.

While Lussi offered many fast food options arriving from the West – such as burgers, pizzas and kebabs – it became particularly famous for its zapiekanki, a popular Polish street food that consists of a sliced baguette covered with mushrooms, melted cheese and ketchup.

However, in recent years the city authorities have been putting pressure on Rymbiewski to leave the location “because the bar does not aesthetically fit into the centre of Warsaw”, reported newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza last month. Indeed, Lussi has been operating for some time without permission.

“Every facility along the road that does not perform a transport function requires consent from the road manager – in this case ZDM [the City Road Authority] – and [must pay] a fee for this activity,” ZDM spokesman Jakub Dybalski told the newspaper.

“The owner of Lussi does not have such consent,” he added. “He has been occupying this place illegally for years and is therefore subject to fines.”

Rymbiewski told broadcaster TVN that until last year he had managed to avoid paying the fines because they were overturned in court. But his latest legal bid has failed, leaving him with over 100,000 zloty (€23,100) to pay.

Warszawiacy stają w obronie budki z zapiekankami spod Pałacu Kultury i Nauki. Na protest zaprasza youtuber Książulo. Czy warto bronić budy rodem niczym z lat 90.?https://t.co/yzg4BBb8hb

— Wyborcza.pl Warszawa (@GazetaStoleczna) March 1, 2024

In an effort to curry favour with the authorities, last year he changed the appearance of the bar, abandoning the former bright red and yellow signage and switching to a more subtle black and white motif.

However, that charm offensive did not prove successful, with Gazeta Wyborcza reporting that Lussi faces removal by ZDM. Rymbiewski has instead decided to give up the fight and close down the bar’s longstanding location. It will instead move to legal premises in the nearby Warszawa Śródmieście station.

“It’s hard to part with a place that is 32 years old,” says the owner. “First, my parents ran the bar, my grandmother worked there, then I took over.”

News of the bar’s closure was met with sorrow by many Warsaw residents. One of them, journalist Kacper Ponichtera, has organised an event in support of Lussi along with a local nightclub, Luzztro.

This Saturday, they will hold a “Rave at Bar Lussi” to show their support. So far, over 22,000 people have expressed an interest in attending on Facebook. The event will also see an attempt to break the record for the world’s longest zapiekanka, which reportedly currently stands at 108 metres.

The organisers have invited Warsaw’s mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, to attend. They say that as well as techno they will play music by Jamiroquai – a reference to an incident in 2020 when Trzaskowski was recorded asking a DJ to play music by the British band.

“This is not only the gastronomic but the historical heritage of Warsaw,” said Ponichtera. “Bars like Lussi have fed us for 30 years and were often a taste of the West…[while] the zapiekanka has become a permanent part of the Polish culinary landscape.”

Their campaign also won the support of one of Poland’s most popular YouTubers, known as Książulo, who has 1.2 million subscribers on his channel, which is dedicated to food reviews. He last year reviewed Lussi, declaring that it serves “the best zapiekanka“.

A famous milk bar in Kraków has closed after decades of providing cheap, hearty meals to locals

The decision was mourned by residents and politicians, who called on the authorities to do more to support such traditional eateries, many of which are closing https://t.co/x9RAekYyCu

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 1, 2024

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Main image credit: Slawomir Kaminski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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