American restaurateur Glenn Spicker wants to revive Malá Strana's nightlife scene

Original Glenn's new cocktail lounge and music venue adjacent to St. Nicholas Church brings a storied expat haunt to a new generation.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 15.02.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 15.02.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

Prague's Malá Strana district has never really rivaled Old Town as a party destination. But to the first-generation expats who arrived during the heady ‘90s, a certain Lesser Town bar was at the center of a thriving scene.

American restaurateur and long-time expat Glenn Spicker is hoping to restore that very bar, and the Czech capital’s Left Bank, to some of its former nightlife glory. Coming off the heels of ambitious projects like Cali Brothers in Holešovice (which closed in 2022) and the short-lived Czech Poster Museum 1897 to 1989 Collection (shuttered in 2021), Spicker is getting back to basics with the opening of Original Glenn’s Bistro (OG) on Malostranské náměstí next to St. Nicholas Church.

Open since September, OG is located in a space formerly occupied by another Glen, Canadian businessman Glen Emery who opened his Jo’s Bar there in 1992 around the same time Spicker launched the U Malého Glena jazz club down the road. Emery, who still owns bars in Prague today, lost the lease on Jo’s in the late ‘90s but its association with the first post-Communism wave of expats is well documented.

If anyone is up to the challenge of reviving the storied hangout for the next generation, it's Spicker who estimates that, since moving to the Czech Republic 30 years ago, he has opened, on average, a business a year. Despite the current economic conditions and the near closure of his own club during the pandemic – U Malého Glena is the longest-running foreign-owned establishment in Prague – Spicker’s entrepreneurial spirit won out.

Glenn Spicker OG Feb2023  OG   FRONT_1__EV+2-HDR CROP for LEAD 1280
Original Glenn's formerly housed Jo's Bar, a famous haunt for first-wave Prague expats in the 90s

“I was having a beer with a friend of mine and talking about where I could move U Maleho and he asked me what had happened to Jo's," says Spicker. "Around the same time, I spoke to Glen, the original owner who said, 'Mate, take a look at the old Jo's Space.'" Spicker went to Jo's and it was closed. "I got on the phone with the landlord, got a contract, and we opened within 46 days of signing the lease.”

Regulars of Spicker’s other establishments such as Old Town’s swishy Agave, with its signature steaks, tamales, and margaritas, or its casual cousin, the Burrito Loco chain will recognize in OG the colorful vibe and Tex-Mex flavors that have made these ventures a success.

OG’s menu encompasses a generous selection of burritos and burgers, paired with house specialties like Czech goulash and slow-roasted duck, a mixed ribs and wings platter, and Carne Asada. Other standout items include Chilaquiles, a traditional Mexican breakfast dish of fried corn tortilla chips cooked in tomato sauce and topped with cream, eggs, and beans as well as breakfast burritos served all day, and, on the sweet side, Czech strudel. The pub fare pairs well with Žateck’s smooth-drinking Malastrana pils or India pale ale.

But it’s not just about the food and drink. Spicker is banking on nostalgia for the historic space, which preserves the feel of the original but with a modern refresh, to attract not just a better kind of tourist but also locals looking to rediscover the quarter’s low-key nightlife appeal.

“The shopping is terrible and there’s no parking but I love Malá Strana. It used to be a place to party in the early ‘90s. I want to bring it back as a place to go out at night not just for tourists but for locals. You get a lot of overpriced tourist traps on Mostecká but it’s still more civilized over here.”

He points to The Blue Light and Napa as nightlife stalwarts of the district, as well as his own U Malého Glena, which he says he’s fought to keep reasonably priced for locals.

“As soon as the price of a hamburger or pasta goes up people start cooking at home and going out less. It’s not worth it. There’s a limit to how much you can raise prices,” he says.

Spicker admits that it’s a “terrible time” to open a new bar but given the location and low startup costs, he saw an opportunity. He’s confident that tourism, as well as other businesses in the area, will rebound from singing the Covid blues as he has.

“During the pandemic, I made some mistakes. I opened a business that failed in the lull, took on another location which was a really big cart before the horse, and lost even more money. I was broke, had no income, no salary, and a lot of expenses. I actually thought about folding U Malého Glena.” He attributes surviving the pandemic and economic crisis to “longevity, stubbornness, and stupidity.”

The opening of the OG marks a new chapter in Spicker’s career as well as a return to his roots. Looking ahead to future projects, OG will open a two-floor Gothic cellar space and sister club to U Malého Glena this spring featuring live groove and funk bands as well as DJs spinning groove, funk, and R&B (Spicker is mulling over ideas for the club name and says "Jo's Garage" is his current favorite.)

Meanwhile, Burrito Loco will expand in Prague with locations at Na Příkopě, I.P. Pavlova, and set up shop in Brno and Zlín.

For those still left wondering just who is the original “G,” in retelling the story of how U Malého Glena came to be, Spicker admits that Emery is the original though he was just a few steps behind.

“When I opened U Malého Glena me and him [Emery] were good friends and still are. And there was this one regular at Jo’s Honza Kral, a.k.a Honza the Terrible who referred to him as ‘Velký’ [Big] Glen and me as ‘Malý [Little] Glenn.’ There were a lot of places with American-sounding bar names at the time and I wanted to be different. So I went with the Czech name.”

While the OG’s name plays off the legacy of both men, for old-school expats who swept into Prague soon after 1989, the bar will always be remembered as Jo’s. And Spicker is ok with that. “Either way, the good times are back in action,” he says.

This article was written in cooperation with Original Glenn's. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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