Year 2008, the Emilio bar closes its doors to never reopen. That temple of the “caña” (beer) and white blood sausage sandwich falls victim to speculation and the retirement of Evaristo and Paco, who inherited the business from his father -Emilio el Gafas- who had been running it for over 100 years. A very hard blow for a clientele that found itself in the street without a place to go to chat, share a table and fight.
A meeting place for the people of the neighbourhood that the tourist had not dared to desecrate. Pepe Rubianes was for many years a regular at this welcoming place where he spent his mornings sharing a table with the locals who never ceased to surprise him with their stories and jokes.
A few years later, in 2016, what was -for almost a century- the flagship restaurant of our neighbourhood “La Puda-Can Manel”, also falls, but reopens its doors, renovated, with new owners, another style, and under a different name.
And as if it were a row of dominoes, just 400 meters away, another icon of the restaurant business -El Hispano- closes and, like the previous one, passes into the hands of others.
This is called transferring the business. A situation that is often repeated in Barceloneta, -in all Barcelona I think-; it is the most natural thing, and personally, I am happy for the owners who after a lifetime behind the stove or running a business that is becoming less and less so, question whether it is worth it to hold on and work until the end.
Few bars and restaurants are still in the hands of their founders or their heirs: Jaica, Cova Fumada, Can Sole, Paco Alcalde, Rey de la Gamba, Salamanca, Ramonet, Can Ros, Vaso de Oro, Rossinyol, Can Majó, and maybe some more.
All the others, almost a hundred, have been transferred or sold, -and some of them more than once – like the Cheriff, Can Joanet, Casa Tipa, Villoro, Costa Brava, and about fifty others that today, are in the hands of foreigners who have raised prices and have nothing to do with the tradition of the grandmother’s cooking that has given prestige to this neighbourhood that was once a sailor’s quarter.
The high rents, the abusive taxes, the outlandish regulations, and the low purchasing power of the clients, cause the traders of the Barceloneta to transfer, sell, or close the businesses, especially when the age of retirement arrives.
Many neighbours defend the trade of proximity at all costs, despite the fact that, when it comes to shopping, we prefer to go to large areas, supermarkets, or in the case of the market, we escape to Santa Catalina, or the Boqueria causing that in our neighbourhood, more and more of my stops are closed every day. This hypocritical attitude with which we want to justify the fact that we are not able to defend or at least reverse the dark future of trade in Barceloneta, only serves to deceive ourselves trying to divert our responsibility to other sectors – such as tourism – which in reality, when it comes to trade, may end up being the solution.
Barceloneta was for more than two centuries a commercial and industrial neighbourhood, the working schedule was 24 hours in eight-hour shifts. The workers on their way to and from work passed by the bar, causing that they could never close, well, half an hour at most to clean every 8 hours. With apartments of 30 square meters, the fathers of the family made more life in the bar than at home.
Every day we are more aware that in this new Barceloneta that is projected on paper in the offices of speculators and civil servants the “people” who live with 400 euros pension or widowhood -that is the majority here- are not reflected.
This situation is called progress, and it is a train that cannot be stopped, we have to take it in motion, preparing our young people and convincing them that training as professionals will be essential for their survival in the neighbourhood.
As for the businesses that are being transferred, as Paco Camarasa said one day to the lamenting public when he closed the Negra y Criminal bookstore: “If you don’t want me to close, buy books from me”.