Gruvelageret lies in Sverdrupbyen, a former part of Longyearbyen up beneath the glacier. There are not many houses left, but from early 30's and before and after the Second World War, it was an important part of the city, housing primarily mine workers. Instead of rebuilding the houses that was starting to decay it was decided to burn all the houses to the ground during a fire exercise in 1985 – all except the canteen and our own Gruvelageret.
We do not know everything that Gruvelageret has been used for earlier. But what we know is that Gruvelageret was one of four buildings brought to Longyearbyen for storage in 1946. They were meant as temporary buildings to be used for the mining company, Store Norske Spitsbergen Grubekompani. At some point we know that Gruvelageret has been a local shop, and we also know that the southern part has been used as a stable for the mine company horses. Later on the building was used to store core seed samples from the mine, and we believe that it was the weight of these that made the southern part of the building to collapse completely. For many years Gruvelageret was left abandoned, half collapsed and in a part of the city that was emptied and moved to other location, following the new coal mines that was established.
Steve D. Torgersen, now the owner of Gruvelageret, was 15 years old when he moved to Longyearbyen in the early 1990's. He was as most teenagers at Svalbard eager for the speed and access to the wilderness at Svalbard, and went often by Gruvelageret either with snowmobile or moped. He says himself that he was always fascinated by the building, situated at the end of the city right before adventures waited.
In 2007 Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani sold the building left in Sverdrupbyen to Monica Kristensen Solås. Steve had by then been educated as Chef and been head Chef to several of the restaurants in Longyearbyen. He had started a company called Svalbard Explorer, which guided inside mine 7, the only mine that still operated in Longyearbyen. To be able to do this he also had worked himself as a miner. The mine was closed for tourists in 2008, so Steve developed Svalbard Explorer to be a company that customized snowmobile trips. He also bought the local pub Karlsberger Pub. Now he saw the opportunity to do something with the building in Sverdrupbyen he never had forgot, and was able to buy Gruvelageret from Monica in 2010.
Everything on Svalbard that represent mine industry is automatically prevented by the environmental law at Svalbard, Steve has had to cooperate closely with the Directorate for Cultural Heritage, the Governor at Svalbard and the local community. It has been a long process to be able to take a building used for storage and make it regulated to become a restaurant. Thereafter Steve had to find the perfect team of carpenters, that understood the concept and Steve’s vision of turning Gruvelageret in to a place for modern fine dining, but that still preserved and showed the history of the coal mine industry at Svalbard. The location also provides some challenges, we have to transport the water, sewage and maintain the road ourselves. It has been an ambitious project and we were so proud to present Gruvelageret when it opened in February 2015, after years of paperwork, challenges, hard work, but also with so much help and fun experiences from inhabitants in Longyearbyen that believed in Steve despite what would be considered as common sense.
Almost all of the materials used inside Gruvelageret is either original, or it is collected at Svalbard or Northern-Norway. Some come from the settlements around at Svalbard, some from a barn in Berlevåg, others from a cabin in Finnmark. The décor shows the mine history, from the chandeliers made of drills from mine 7 to the stock certificates from the mine company. Most of the things have been given to us from the mine company or from local collectors. The old floor had to be removed and replaced with new materials, but the materials from the old floor that was still whole we have turned in to tables and benches. The stools are made from lumber from the old harbor. These are just few examples, the waiter can tell you more when you are visiting and experiencing the unique and historic touch that lies within the walls at Gruvelageret.
Steve and everyone at Gruvelageret wants the restaurant to be a place for everyone; where tourists can relax and enjoy a nice dinner after a long day of new experiences, but also a place for the local community in Longyearbyen to appreciate and use for their happenings and events.
Therefore we also host concerts, life-ceremonies such as weddings and baptism, and we always welcome the school and kinder garden to visit us and use the building at daytime. We have a strong passion around the menu; we want to serve a meal that is with an Arctic and Northern touch, but also shows the diversity in being situated close to the North Pole.
We are cooperating with local producers and are continuously searching for the best products. We want a visit to Gruvelageret to be a dining experience out of the ordinary, and that we are making memories for every guest that visits us.