Propping it up… regulars vow to save Tel Aviv bar from demolition

By Michal Levertov, November 20, 2008

One of Tel Aviv's oldest buildings - and now home to one of its hippest bars - is at risk after developers announced plans to demolish it for a new office building.

Nanouchka's, on fashionable Lilienblum Street, is a hugely popular Georgian restaurant and bar that has catered to trendy locals and celebrities for the past six years.

Not only has it become the cornerstone of the local scene of bars and clubs, namechecked in almost every guide to the city, but it is a unique example of Tel Aviv's architectural heritage that campaigners say should be saved as the city prepares to celebrate its centenary next year.

The building, says Tal Ben Nun of the Council for Restoration and Preservation of Historic Sites, was built in 1910 by the teacher Shabtai Mirkis, one of the founders of Ahuzat Bayit, Tel Aviv's first modern neighbourhood. It is the only house of the historic neighborhood that has survived in its original state.

Nanuchka's owner, local nightlife icon Nana Schrier, plans to shift the bar in exactly its current form to the building next door. But Nanuchka's devoted costumers are about to launch a campaign to stop the planned demolition, arguing that more than a mere venue is at stake.

"Nanouchka is a cultural jewel in our crown," says actor Ronen Hershkovitz, a regular at the bar from its inception. "Its special location has a big part in its unique atmosphere. In Tel Aviv, too often the old is being removed for the new, and it's not necessarily in the city's favour."

Mr Herskovitz and his friends plan a campaign of underground-style posters and viral emails. He believes that the protest will go beyond the city's borders, citing an incident earlier this week at an international conference in Jerusalem.

"I directed the opening event, and one of the American leaders approached me and asked where could we possibly have met before," Mr Hershkovitz said. "It didn't take long to realize that it was at Nanuchka's."
A spokesman for the Tel Aviv municipality said: "The building was included in Tel Aviv's original preservation plans, but was removed by the owners and a new urban building plan was approved for the site."

Last updated: 12:04pm, November 20 2008