A Pop-up Bar Transmitting on the Hipster Frequency From Southern Tel Aviv

Housed in the city’s first shopping mall, the Teder became a cultural force with outposts in Japan, Poland, Russia and even Jerusalem.

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A Teder pool party at Beit Romano, Aug. 2016. Artificial grass, striped lawn chairs and a small inflatable pool create a swim-club atmosphere in the building's courtyard.
A Teder pool party at Beit Romano, Aug. 2016.Credit: Ariel Efron
Dafna Arad
Dafna Arad
Dafna Arad
Dafna Arad

A bar, internet radio station and party venue in a run-down commercial building morphed from a summer fling for the four young men behind it into one of the most powerful cultural forces in Israel. Teder (Hebrew for “frequency”), a white-hot entertainment project in the White City, not only breathed new life into a gray office building in south Tel Aviv but also resurrected the country’s nightlife.

Teder operates mainly in Beit Romano. Built in 1947 by two businessmen, at its peak the three-sided, four-story complex was a center of the city’s textile industry, a proto-shopping mall with around 300 stores and the home of many government offices. In recent decades the building’s fortunes declined, together with Israeli clothing manufacturing, and many of the commercial tenants left.

But when night falls, and the cut-rate clothing stores close, the atmosphere undergoes a transformation. The average age drops by at least 30 years, and the cacophony of cars and merchants along Derekh Yafo gives way to chill Tel Aviv schmoozing.

The revelers show up in familiar hipster wear: worn-out sneakers and high socks, an oversize undershirt revealing a sleeve of tattoos, or beards and thick eyeglasses. The bar’s radio station plays contemporary or forgotten retro music at a volume that allows for conversation with friends, or flirting with strangers. Makeshift tables hold wagon-wheel sized pizzas, cradled in their open boxes.

On one late summer evening, four men exit Salon Romano, one of chef Eyal Shani’s stable of restaurants, and head for the air-conditioned radio station on the ground floor of the building. One of them uses a gilded cane. They turn out to be the Sugarhill Gang, living legends who made their start in a New Jersey restaurant and recorded the first rap hit, “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979. They are guests of the Teder radio station, a day before their show at the city’s Barby club.

A week earlier, a Shabbat pool party erupted at Teder: The parking lot is transformed into a swim club by a thick layer of artificial grass, topped with striped lawn and a shallow inflatable pool full of beach balls and muscular, tattooed young men. Baby hipsters crawl on the plastic grass, and the Israeli indie duo Rio provides a perfect end-of-summer sound track. Twelve hours later, at 6 A.M., after the chairs are stacked, the sound equipment packed, the portable bars rolled away and the pool drained and folded, Teder will disappear and the parking lot will reappear. It’s the same drill, six nights a week.

From left: Itai Drai (DJ Walter), Zach Bar, journalist Dror Sher and DJ Shlomi Zidan.Credit: Tali Shany

Does the choice of Teder’s operators to put down roots in the forgotten complex, and in so doing to attract a stream of young food, fashion and art entrepreneurs, give Beit Romano the adrenalin fix that it needs, or does it pave the way for commercial gentrification that will disinherit the store owners and strip the place of its original character, erasing any hint of its glorious past?

Teder, like Beit Romano itself, has a history, albeit shorter, quicker and more dynamic. The impromptu radio bar opened in 2010 on Har Sinai Street, adjacent to the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street, for just 120 days. The goal was to bring together radio broadcasters, including Dori Ben-Ze’ev, Yoni Sharoni, Leon Feldman, Radio Trip (Uri Wertheim and Ofer Tal), Markey Funk and the hip-hop duo Cohen@Mushon, for a glass of beer.

The founders were 30-somethings Itai Drai (DJ Walter), Zach Bar, DJ Shlomi Zidan and journalist Dror Sher. Their pop-up bar soon became a major draw. “The first Teder opened with complete innocence,” recalls Sher. “We were convinced we were opening a temporary place for our friends who would come and be recorded in it. We hoped to pour a few beers a day to cover rent.”

Teder operated at Har Sinai for two summers, and in 2012 it migrated to south Rothschild Boulevard, just outside the Neveh Tzedek quarter, across from a lovely square surrounded by earthworks, the beginning of an underground parking garage. That year the Foreign Ministry dispatched the Teder team to Tokyo, as ambassadors of Israeli alternative music.

In 2013, Teder moved to Beit Romano and remained there the next summer as well. In 2015 the team, together with its menu and its vibe, camped out around Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Teder helped drive up the sales of vinyl records and the profusion of pop-up stores, fairs and food-focused bars while pulling the city’s nightlife southward.

“Most of the spaces that served Teder were anonymous and dilapidated and afterward turned into well-known fashionable places among Tel Aviv urbanites, centers for activities,” says Hila Bar Ner, who chose Teder as a test case for her report “Placemaking in Israel,” for the Urban Clinic of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, part of the Institute for Urban and Regional Studies.

“The Great Synagogue’s neglected parking lot turned into a familiar place of entertainment. ... The ability of Teder and its cohorts to turn anonymous areas into a part of the familiar Tel Aviv map was identified by investors and can be another tool for renewal from within the public interest,” she wrote.

Only this summer did the four owners decide to stop wandering and settle in at Beit Romano. But Teder remains a temporary place, with plastic furniture and beer crates with cushions that must be set up each evening and put away before dawn.

The long lines at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Sept. 1 recalled major hip-hop performances abroad. But these queues were for Teder Night at the Museum, celebrating 100 years of Dadaism.

In a side gallery, art lovers jumped on a trampoline to view a partly concealed work. A musician screened clips from his new label, with a live band breaking in occasionally to play the songs.

It was Teder’s fourth such partnership with the museum, and both parties are thrilled. Only after 1 A.M., when the sprinklers turned on, did attendees eating spring rolls in the sculpture garden consider going home.

The partnership began with a donation to the museum specifying that it be used for an event related to surrealism, Dudi Peleg, the museum’s events director, recounts. “We found a successful formula, even for an audience that isn’t exactly a fan of the plastic arts,” he said.

This isn’t Teder’s only cooperative relationship with the establishment. The four founders were invited by Israeli consulates abroad and by Jewish festivals around the world to produce events as well. Delegations were dispatched to mount productions in Jerusalem, Tokyo, St. Petersburg and Krakow.

Tzach Bar recounts: “At Teder Tokyo, on the edge of the Harajuku district, we put together a three-week pop-up presenting the Tel Aviv sound. It was a very interesting and difficult experience.”

Drai notes that the team, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, brought over 30 Israeli artists to Japan. “We had two goals: to expose the Japanese public to the cool things happening in Israel, and to try to comprehend and represent what was happening at the same time in Tokyo.”

There’s another side, of course. Dr. Tali Hatuka of the Laboratory for Contemporary Urban Design at Tel Aviv University says: “We must be cautious about these complexes, which are put up quickly and with enthusiasm but whose life expectancy is sometimes very short. All of the recent changes in the city are based primarily on consumption of all kinds. That’s very problematic because there’s no public for all this consumption. As a result, Sarona is treading water, Gan Hahashmal, Hatachana, the Jaffa Port — it doesn’t matter if it’s a complex enclosed with a fence or one building that brings several things together. When small businesses, commerce and industry leave and consumer services enter, it’s problematic. City Hall must have an interest in strengthening commerce and providing things other than food and music. They’re educating the people in the city to a certain limited and circumscribed culture. Consumer businesses are lucrative to the city from the standpoint of municipal taxes. City hall is using young people and artists who are leveraging this space and making it vibrant, full of life, familiar to the broader public through real estate media coverage and gossip and music coverage, and all of this will make its development by private developers possible. And the moment that plans for the space move forward, these groups will disappear.”

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