Café Roland forced to go

Café Roland is gone from Bratislava's Hlavné námestie, but maybe not for good. On September 7, the popular café took up temporary residence around the corner at the Hotel Perugia on Zelená ulica after it was ousted from the building owned by the Czech trading company Koospol. Capitalizing on Koospol's outstanding debts, Československá Obchodná Banka (ČSOB) has taken control of the building and is renovating it to make it suitable for the bank's Bratislava headquarters. The renovation work will take six months, after which ČSOB intends to reopen its ground floor as a café, according to Milan Vajda, the spokesman for Bratislava City Hall. "We would like it to be Café Roland," Vajda said on behalf of the mayor. "The café has become synonymous with Bratislava's historical core. And [Roland's owner Marta] Herczeg has become a model of entrepreneurship in that area."

Café Roland is gone from Bratislava's Hlavné námestie, but maybe not for good. On September 7, the popular café took up temporary residence around the corner at the Hotel Perugia on Zelená ulica after it was ousted from the building owned by the Czech trading company Koospol. Capitalizing on Koospol's outstanding debts, Československá Obchodná Banka (ČSOB) has taken control of the building and is renovating it to make it suitable for the bank's Bratislava headquarters.

The renovation work will take six months, after which ČSOB intends to reopen its ground floor as a café, according to Milan Vajda, the spokesman for Bratislava City Hall. "We would like it to be Café Roland," Vajda said on behalf of the mayor. "The café has become synonymous with Bratislava's historical core. And [Roland's owner Marta] Herczeg has become a model of entrepreneurship in that area."

Herczeg has been shook up by the ouster. "We had a contract, but [ČSOB] has renounced it," she said. "They've turned off the water, so we couldn't do anything. They had promised to let us stay here for one year, but they've done it differently." Jozef Šalach, the head of ČSOB Bratislava who had told the city and district mayors that the café could remain in the building until the end of the year, was not available for comment.

Whether the bank or the public wants Roland back on the cobblestoned square may be irrelevant, since Vajda said Herczeg has obtained space on Michalská ulica and that she may open her café there.

President, mayor get new offices

The 200-year-old Grassalkovich Palace across from the Hotel Forum on Bratislava's Hodžovo námestie will have a new tenant as of September 30. President Michal Kováč is finally moving his offices from the pink Primatial Palace in Old Town after three years of reconstruction work on his new digs was repeatedly stalled by meager state funding.

The renovation work, which began in May 1993, was supposed to have been completed in June 1995. But because finances from the state budget were slow in coming, the 277.5 million Sk ($9.25 million) project was not finished until this month. Fifteen percent of the final cost could have been saved if the work had been completed on time, according to a source in the president's office.

Since the Grassalkovichs, a noble family of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, built their summer palace between 1768 and 1779, it has served as a military headquarters, as home to the president of Slovakia's World War II pseudo-independent state, Jozef Tiso, and as the center for Communist young pioneer activity. The building sat decaying from 1988 to 1991, when it was chosen as the residence for Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel and his successors whenever they would visit Bratislava. The countries' split in 1993 changed that plan, and work finally began. ost of the interior restoration work was completed by two Polish firms, PKZ and Exbut, and one Slovak company, Slovenské umelecké.

The president's move opens up the Primaciálny Palác for Bratislava's mayor, Peter Kresánek, to move in. With the president's departure, the mayor and his staff will now occupy the top floor, with the two lower floors open to the public for concerts, exhibits, and ceremonial events.

Special reporting by Andrea Lörinczová

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