HS Helsinki | A confusing restaurant that looks like a mental hospital opened in Helsinki

Jon Puolakka opened the Mental Hospitality restaurant, the theme of which is a mental hospital. He asked experts for advice so as not to carnivalize mental health problems.

It’s a year 2017.

Jon Puolakka participates in the competition of young bartenders and is racking his brain about what theme to build his competition cocktail from.

The thought goes back to childhood and youth in Kerava, where Puolakka played ice hockey diligently.

That was the solution, a puck-themed drink! Puck to Home -cocktail would be served from a hollowed-out hockey puck, an Edmonton Oilers bottle and a tray that looks like a puck bowl.

It wears out five years.

Puolakka works for Smooth It, a company that makes smoothie drinks and snacks. Smooth It is located in the premises of the former mental hospital in Lapinlahti.

The corona pandemic has driven Puolaka out of the restaurant industry, but like many other bartenders, he still dreams of his own place.

In a head used to designing competition concepts, the thought begins to run: a bar… a psychiatric hospital… a mental hospital…

In October 2022, everything will be ready: Puolakka will have its own restaurant.

The Mental Hospitality restaurant overlooks the bay. When Lapinlahti was still used as a hospital, these rooms were the staff canteen. The space is protected by the Finnish Museum Agency.

When a guest enters the room, he is likely to be startled. On both sides of the long table are ancient hospital beds with blue mattresses. The beds clearly serve as benches.

There are more beds in the second room, and a wheelchair at the end of one of the tables. There are photos and works of art on the walls. Actually, only the bar counter reveals that we are in a restaurant.

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This is Mental Hospitality, a reservation restaurant born from Puolaka’s brainstorming, with the theme of a mental hospital.

“The beds come from the Kellokoski hospital. I bought them from the Kiertonet online auction of the public administration. A Keno coupon from 2018 was found under one of the mattresses, which means the bed has only been in use a short time ago,” says Puolakka.

A large part of the rest of the equipment has been found in the attic of Lapinlahti: tables, bedside tables for patients and cabinets where bottles are now stored.

The restaurant is located on the first floor of Lapinlahti’s main building, and the windows offer a view of the bay.

In 2017, Jon Puolakka participated in the competition of young bartenders with a hockey-themed cocktail, which was enjoyed from a hollow puck and served from a tray that looked like a rink.

Business concept, where the original purpose of the building also defines the brand, is by no means new. For example, Hotel Katajanokka and Hotel Kakola use the building’s history as prisons in their marketing.

That’s why the idea of ​​a psychiatric hospital as a bar theme seemed natural to Puolaka – but still suspicious: In Finland, when mental health problems and alcohol tend to go hand in hand.

Would the idea of ​​a mental hospital bar be tasteless? Would it offend those with psychiatric problems?

Puolakka decided to ask the opinion of the Lapinlahti Lähde center, which is backed by mental health-promoting Mieli association and Pro Lapinlahti mental health society.

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The center gave the green light to the idea on the condition that the theme be implemented in good taste. At the same time, Puolakka received advice on what not to do.

“I weeded out ideas that could carnivalize mental health problems. For example, there were no medicine syringes in the drinks, which I had already thought about, and diseases are not included in the names of the cocktails,” says Puolakka.

On the wall of Mental Hospitality are photos related to the history of psychiatric treatment in Finland. This photo was taken at a women’s care facility on the island of Seili.

Result is quite successful in the eyes of the viewer. It feels like being in a museum or an art gallery.

There is a Hungarian artist on the walls by Timea Jankovics documentary works depicting the history of psychiatric care in the artist’s current home country of France. One picture shows piles of white fabric clothes.

“When the patient came to the hospital, his belongings were placed on a piece of cloth. It was sewn up and taken to be stored in the hospital’s attic,” says Puolakka.

“Often the trip to the hospital was a one-way ticket, meaning the patient never got out. The work describes the clothiers who were never searched.”

The second picture shows the hospital cemetery, where clothes from dead patients are hung on crosses.

Jankovics has also brought to Mental Hospitality chains and ties borrowed from a Parisian museum, with which patients are bound. They now hang from the curtain rod of the bar.

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On the wall is also an old straitjacket from France, with which patients have been sedated.

The straitjacket hanging on the wall comes from a French mental hospital.

Mental Hospitality is an order restaurant, so anyone can’t just walk in like that. The reason for the solution is bar geography.

“When people go out, they usually want to go to a lot of different places. There are no other bars near here, so Mental Hospitality is too far away.”

Puolakka markets his 48-seat restaurant mainly for company parties. Help is the synergy that arises when there are many other entrepreneurs in the same property.

“There are 400 of us in this house, so all kinds of expertise can be found. We can customize program packages where we offer, for example, history tours in the house, park yoga, catering services, saunas and an evening out at the bar,” says Puolakka, thinks for a moment and repeats.

“Maybe I should set up a program office.”

Timea Jakovics’ work is based on the faces of the patients of a French psychiatric hospital.

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