Covid forces two of Barcelona’s oldest restaurants out of business | Barcelona


Two of Barcelona’s oldest restaurants have been forced to close permanently after hopes trade would recover over Easter were dashed when the regional government decided to maintain coronavirus restrictions over the holiday weekend.

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.

Both have now closed, barely a week after news that Senyor Parellada and the seafood restaurant Cal Pinxo, which have been serving Barcelonans for, respectively, 38 and 60 years, had gone out of business.

Another recent victim, Café Schilling, which for a century served coffee and snacks just off la Rambla, has been replaced by a Taco Bell.

Other longstanding establishments, such as Can Culleretes, the city’s oldest restaurant, which has never closed since it was founded in 1786, or the fish and paella specialist 7 Portes (1836), are struggling to survive through home deliveries.

The Catalan hospitality sector has faced strict limitations on its opening hours and the number of customers allowed on the premises since December. Rules were eased in March but even so all bars and restaurants have to close by 5pm and Catalan restaurateurs look with envy at their Madrid counterparts, where bars and restaurants are open all day until the 11pm curfew.

Its approach has boosted the popularity of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the rightwing Madrid regional president, who faces re-election next month, and has also attracted significant numbers of French tourists to the capital.

Barcelona’s restaurateurs have continually contested the efficacy of the restrictions imposed on their industry and insist that bars and restaurants, and outdoor terraces in particular, are not significant areas of transmission.

They point to an overall death rate for the two regions that is very 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.

Spain had one of Europe’s strictest national lockdowns in the first wave of the pandemic and since October has ordered people to stay in their homes between 10pm/11pm and 6am. Other restrictions, such as opening hours, vary from region to region but inter-regional travel is banned.

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.”