The history of what is today known as Genossenschaft Baseltor began at the Restaurant Löwen in Solothurn in 1978, with artist Schang Hutter as the first chairman. The activists of that pioneering era dreamed of living and working collectively, and of changing the world through culture and gastronomy. Those dreams were put to the test: in addition to the long working days in the popular restaurant, the general meeting was held on Sundays in order to make decisions. There were discussions, debates and quarrels – and yet, against the odds, the venture survived, kept afloat by idealism and collective excitement about equal pay for all. In the meantime, the Löwen had already become the place to be in Solothurn.
Baseltor - Relocation in the canon's house
In 1992, the cooperative moved into the former restaurant Chez Derron in the canon’s house of St Ursus Cathedral, renovating the property and fitting it out with six (now 17) hotel rooms. The conversion skilfully combined the historic structure with modern elements, winning Genossenschaft Baseltor an architectural prize. The cult restaurant, reborn as the Baseltor restaurant and hotel, soon became a local institution, as the utopia of the early years evolved into a focus on good food. The collective was replaced by a management partnership and guests were no longer refused service for being too square. As a cooperative, the Baseltor gained an entry in GaultMillau – despite the testers’ initial scepticism about what they saw as a ‘matriarchy’ focused on pleasing vegetarians. Today, Baseltor is dedicated to the slow food movement and boasts beautiful interiors, pretty little terraces, a young, cheerful staff and charming hotel rooms by interior designer Ursula Staub.
Solheure - abattoir conversion
For three seasons from 1998, Genossenschaft Baseltor compensated for the summer slowdown at its main venue by running a lively beach café known as Solheure on the banks of the Aare. Back then, the riverside was only sparsely populated, with no Hafebar, Barmeile or Salzhaus. A liberalisation of the licensing laws and the sale of the former abattoir enabled the development and revival of the area around the Aare – as well as the expansion of Genossenschaft Baseltor. In 2001, the renovation of the abattoir provided an opportunity to open a second business. The resulting venue, with its 18-metre bar and festive outdoor area right next to the Aare, filled a gap in the Solothurn culinary scene and became a key meeting place for the city’s inhabitants, dubbed “the coolest bar in Switzerland” and “an architectural gem” by newspaper WOZ. Architect Guido Kummer and interior designer Jasmin Grego complemented the historic building with exposed walls, spatial objects and eye-catching pieces such as custom-designed armchairs and Turkish rugs. Solheure was also awarded an architectural prize.
Salzhaus - relaxed fine dining concept
The Genossenschaft Baseltor was frequently offered further properties to convert into restaurants. It examined the options carefully, biding its time until it found the right venue, and in november 2009 Salzhaus opened in Breggerhaus on Landhausquai. The family that owned the building was motivated by more than just financial considerations: like the cooperative, it wanted to use the conversion to offer Solothurn a new cultural venue. Zurich architectural firm Edelmann Krell won the design competition with a sophisticated mix of old and new: the historic walls and vaulted cellar combine with concrete, oak flooring and brass chandeliers to create a unique atmosphere. The relaxed fine dining concept is a first for Solothurn, while the fusion cuisine and excellent service has won the restaurant 14 GaultMillau points.
Opening La Couronne Hotel Restaurant in spring 2017
In 2014, Genossenschaft Baseltor combined the catering activities of its three businesses into a new firm, HOCH3 Catering. The unique baroque Rittersaal in Von Roll Haus has belonged exclusively to HOCH3 Catering since spring 2015.
Over the years, Genossenschaft Baseltor has developed a consistent identity for each operation, right down to the little details. What unites them is a balance between well-established values and unconventional ideas on the business side, and a mix of old and new in their design. But Genossenschaft Baseltor is also a sustainably managed business with 300 share-owning members. And the next milestones are nearly with us, with the opening of La Couronne Hotel Restaurant in spring 2017 and the cooperative’s 40th anniversary in 2018.