The saga lives on

L' Archiduc's story began in 1937 when Madame Alice first opened its doors.

Originally, it was an elegant and discreet art deco establishment frequented by brokers and their secretaries. The interior featured several small wooden booths, crowned with cast iron frames, providing privacy and comfort for its patrons. Although the booths are no longer present, visitors can still sit on the original benches along the walls, immersing themselves in the venue’s rich history. The stunning cast iron main door remains, adorned with a beautiful letter A, which stands for Archiduc, Alice, and undoubtedly, Amour.

In 1953, Madame Alice passed the torch to Stan Brenders and his wife, marking the beginning of a new era for L'Archiduc – the Jazz Age.

Stan Brenders

Stan Brenders on his piano, at the Archiduc, 1960s.

Stan Brenders would be at the grand piano most evenings. This 1929 piano, along with the two pillars embracing it, soon became the symbols of L’Archiduc. Jazz musicians came from everywhere. Nat King Cole, Stan’s friend, was successful with one of Stan’s compositions, « I Envy », as was Alice Babs, with « So Many People ».

Stan Brenders was a pioneer of Belgian Jazz. He very early became inspired by the sound of New Orleans Jazz. In 1927, at the age of 23, he joined the band « Charles Remue and his New Stompers », known to have appeared on the first Belgian Jazz record in June 1927, which was cut in London’s Edison Bell studios.

In 1933, Brenders played for the INR, the National Radio, which was then a glorious institution where all the music was played live. Brenders created INR’s Jazz Orchestra in January 1936. Unfortunately, WWII was about to unfold. Notwithstanding, during the war, Brenders disguised many song titles to get around nazi censorship of Jazz and Swing.

In May 1942, the INR’s Jazz Orchestra would back eight performances of Django Reinhart. This would be Brenders’ best musical year, not only for the cooperation with Reinhart, but also for the songs composed then.

Stan died in 1969. Nevertheless, his wife carried on with L’Archiduc until 1985.

Toots Thielemans

In 1985, Jean-Louis and Nathalie Hennart received the keys from Stan's wife to continued the saga.

In 1985, Jean-Louis Hennart and his wife Nathalie Dufour took over L’Archiduc, a café that has remained unchanged for 82 years. Prior to this, Jean-Louis ran a bar called « Interférence » on the Grand Place, where he also organized concerts. He was introduced to L’Archiduc by his friend, Marc Moulin.

Benoit Hennebert et Jean-Louis Hennart à l’Interference

Marc Moulin

Following Stan’s footsteps, and wanting to continue in his spirit, the couple looked for some convenient jazz formulas, and in the early 90’s they created the two events still in use today.

Jean-Louis quickly realized that jazz was the perfect fit for L’Archiduc’s decor and began organizing concerts. He was fortunate to meet and befriend Mal Waldron, Billie Holiday’s last pianist, who would often play at the café whenever he was available.

The café has inspired writers, such as Francis Dannemark, who set his novel « Les agrandissements du ciel en bleu » in L’Archiduc. The book features Jean-Louis and Mal Waldron as characters and even mentions the birth of Jean-Louis’ daughter.

L’Archiduc is also known for its romantic atmosphere, with numerous couples having met there over the years. Jean-Louis hopes to one day bring together all these couples who found love at the café.

Nathalie & Jean-Louis Hennart