Is Covid the end for some of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona?

by Lorraine Williamson
oldest restaurants in Barcelona

BARCELONA – Covid restrictions in Barcelona have made it extremely difficult for some restaurants and businesses to continue. Including some of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona.

Restrictions in city contrast with those in Spanish capital, Madrid as we see yet another two restaurants close their doors for the last time. Agut and Can Soteras are two of Barcelona´s oldest restaurants. However, they have been forced to close after hopes trade would recover over Semana Santa were dashed. This was due to the regional government deciding to maintain coronavirus restrictions over the holiday period.

Oldest restaurants serving traditional dishes

For the past 97 years Agut has been serving traditional dishes in the city’s Gothic Quarter. While Can Soteras in the Passeig Sant Joan has been in business for 105 years.

Agut is one of the most emblematic restaurants in Barcelona. Founded in 1924, it still had a certain bohemian feel and a very inviting atmosphere. The paintings on the walls characterised the restaurant. And the menu offered top quality seasonal traditional Catalan cuisine.

Festa del Cargol

The traditional Diagonal Can Soteras was founded in 1917 and over a century later, it was still one of the best when it came to traditional Catalan cuisine. Once a year it held the “Festa del Cargol”.  This was a gastronomic event dedicated to snails that attracted the many famous personalities of Barcelona’s society.

The news of the closure of both these restaurants comes barely a week after news that another two long standing restaurants had gone out of business. These are Senyor Parellada and the seafood restaurant Cal Pinxo, which have been serving Barcelonans for, respectively, 38 and 60 years.

Yet another recent victim, was Café Schilling which served coffee for 100 years.

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Struggling to survive

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Other restaurants are struggling to survive. Resulting in some taking to home deliveries as a way of continuing to bring in some income. Can Culleretes, the city’s oldest restaurant, which has never closed since it was founded in 1786, and the fish and paella specialist 7 Portes which opened in 1836 continue to trade under the most difficult of circumstances.

The Catalan hospitality sector has faced strict limitations on its opening hours. Also, the number of customers allowed on the premises has been restricted since December. However, rules were eased in March, but bars and restaurants still must close by 5PM. Therefore, it is not surprising that Catalan restaurateurs are upset due to the difference in restrictions for their Madrid counterparts.  Furthermore, bars and restaurants in Madrid are open all day until curfew at 11pm.

Restauranteurs contest the restrictions

As reported by The Guardian, Barcelona’s restaurateurs have continually contested the reasoning behind restrictions imposed on their industry and insist that bars and restaurants, especially those with outdoor terraces, are not significant areas of transmission.

They point to an overall death rate for the two regions that is remarkably similar – 14,579 in Madrid compared with 13,484 in Catalonia, according to department of health figures as of 3 April – and a 35% occupancy of intensive care beds in the Madrid region compared with 34% in Catalonia.

Unfairly targeted

The Barcelona restaurant association believes the industry has been unfairly targeted and says that 30% of its members have gone out of business since the pandemic began, while others may never reopen.

“At the beginning businesses were closing because of the pandemic and the lockdown,” said Roger Pallarols, the association’s director. “But in recent months they’ve been the result of the restrictions and the disastrous management of the crisis.”

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