ZevenekenHe had long since retired, but at the age of seventy Gilbert Stevens is still standing behind the counter of café ‘t Smisken. Storm damage and health problems now force him to pull the plug. “If I could, I would carry on until my last breath.”
Located in Zeveneken, café ‘t Smisken, a typical brown bar, is just on Loker’s territory. Gilbert Stevens has been receiving his regulars there seven days a week for 25 years and was previously also café owner van Den Enghel and later café Biervelde in Beervelde for 20 years, but on Friday 23 September he will open the doors for the last time and this weekend the final shooting. Every year, about 80 to 90 shootings took place in the cafe and the pub is also the base of the fan club of cyclist Liam Slock.
In Lochristi and the surrounding area, Gilbert is best known as ‘Den Bleken’. A cafe owner with a good heart where everyone is at ease. “Half of my customers don’t even know my real first name,” he laughs. Behind that nickname is a special story. “I used to combine my cafe with football. I played as a midfielder for Dynamo Beervelde. After I had a bad night’s sleep, when I got to the changing rooms, a fellow player said I looked quite pale, but I played the game of my life that day. ‘What was the matter with the bleaching now?’, I asked him after the match and that has always stuck with me.”
At the age of seventy, the love for his job as a café owner is still just as great. “You meet people every day, you know a lot. I will really miss it soon. Although there are also advantages, because I will have more time for my grandchildren.” He would have gone on for years if it depended on him, but the circumstances were against him. “The cafe building suffered serious damage during a heavy storm in February. That was a first setback,” says Gilbert. In addition, the brave seventy also fights against cancer. “If my health still wanted to go along, I would have looked for another property, but now fate has decided otherwise.”
The one who will soon be missed by the regular guests of ‘t Smisken is café cat Louise. “She is the apple of a lot of customers’ eye and regularly walked over the counter. She will soon move with me to the center of Lochristi. Together we will often think back to our beautiful time in ‘t Smisken.”
‘t Smisken will open its doors for the last time on Friday evening 22 September at 5 pm. Everyone is welcome.
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