Getting into the fictional Rick’s wasn’t always easy. A curt shake of the head from Bogart was enough to tell the doorman when someone was persona non grata. Similarly, in modern Casablanca, where fancy neighborhoods often lie next to bidonvilles or slums, heavyset men in black suits stationed at restaurant doors also give would-be patrons the once-over.
The door scene is refreshingly absent at B-Rock, a club in the heart of the corniche strip that caters to Casablanca’s alternative crowd. It offers a quiet bar area with pool tables as well as a lively downstairs where bands play. One night, a male-female team belted out North African songs and Western pop hits to a casually dressed young crowd. A French-language song from a Berber songwriter segued into Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, followed by a fist-pumping classic from Metallica.
Many of the clientele are artists and musicians themselves. More than a few are involved in the February 20 pro-democracy movement, Morocco’s version of the Arab Spring, which organized demonstrations calling for political reform across the country last year.
Mohammed Merhari, who started B-Rock two years ago, tries to get different acts every night, from rock bands to electronic music to video art installations to reggae. As in Bogart’s cafe, between musical acts, there’s talk of politics.
“You have young people from the left or the far left and others who aren’t political at all and so there is the chance to hear and see debates among these people,” said Merhari.
B-Rock’s owner, however, cautions against coming to his club looking to recreate Hollywood’s Casablanca.
“We don’t do much jazz, we don’t have a piano and we don’t live in black and white,” he said, with a touch of Rick’s gruff humor from the movie. “This place is for young people who live in the 21st century. We live in color.”
Associated Press reporter Aziz El Yaakoubi contributed to this piece.