Bistro Berlage is located in the former main entrance of the commodity exchange of the Beurs van Berlage. The merchants entered here in a foyer where they could hang their coat and then enter the Grote Zaal through the left or right door. In the design of the building, Berlage pursued an open atmosphere: a building that everyone could easily access. A large and wide entrance was part of this, with a main square where one could gather before the trading day began.
At five minutes before nine every morning, the clock at the Beursplein rang to warn the traders of the start of the trading day. The Beurs van Berlage still keeps this tradition alive every day. The merchants then proceeded to the entrance via the Beursplein. In doing so, they passed the tile tableaux of Jan Toorop (Present, Past and Future), in order to end up in the large trading halls.
The Bistro originally served as the main entrance for the commodity exchange. Traders entered a foyer where they could hang up their coats and subsequently enter the Grote Zaal via the revolving doors on the left or right. They originally all three in a row decorated the rear wall of the vestibule. There they confronted the businessmen with the possibility that soon they possibly had to find another job. The works portrayed the past, the present and the future, according to socialism.
Jan Toorop (1858-1928) travelled through all of Europe, but had his workshop in Domburg in the Dutch province of Zeeland, where many other artists also came to work. They inspired Toorop to use a great diversity of styles, from impressionism and symbolism to pointillism.
On the bas-relief above the three arches which form the entrance, the engraved quatrain says that trade is not the only thing that connects mankind: a rather cynical welcome for the merchants who entered here on a daily basis! Lambertus Zijl portrayed the historical developments according to socialism from left to right: Paradise (where there was no trade), the future (a league of equals) and the depraved civilization (the capitalist society in which the few exploit the many).
The images of the keystones, which are located above the entrance arches, give a hint about the space behind. At the entrance of the Goederenbeurs (“Goods exchange”) Lambertus Zijl sculpted a spinning wheel, a bow and arrow and a fishing net. These simple tools symbolise the primary needs of mankind: clothing and food, which form the basis of trade.