The protected buildings house some of the city's most famous casual bars that have been serving up wine, anchovies, and jamón to locals and visitors for generations.

By Jelisa Castrodale
November 10, 2020
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Customers enjoy the special food on offer at the Bodega Quimet and Quimet in the Poble Sec area of Barcelona, 20 December 2005.
| Credit: CESAR RANGEL/AFP via Getty Images

Over the past several years, the city council in Barcelona has designated more than 200 businesses as protected sites and buildings, because they have been deemed emblematic of the city, its identity, and its heritage. Last July, the council made a list of 31 bodegas and wine bars that it planned to evaluate, before deciding which ones might be the most worthy of preservation.

"These are representative establishments of the neighborhoods that are a meeting point for neighbors, family, and friends, and that are part of the collective heritage," Deputy Mayor Janet Sanz said at the time, adding that this was a way for the city to "combat gentrification" and "shield individual businesses from the predatory big international brands that make neighborhoods homogeneous."

After several months of deliberation, 11 of those bodegas have been added to that list and given protected status. (Although it's worth noting that this just protects the buildings themselves: it doesn't do anything to keep the businesses inside them up and running). According to La Vanguardia, the 20 that weren't included had "remnants of their history" like vaulted ceilings or stained glass doors, but apparently the council was looking for more than a few architectural elements.

The 11 bodegas that made the cut are: Bodega Vendrell, Bodega Sopena, Bar del Toro, Celler Miquel, Bodega Salvat, Bodega Marín, Bodega Quimet, Bodega Manolo, Bodega Massana, Bodega Lluís, and Bodega J. Cala. These now extra-historic wine bars are scattered throughout half of Barcelona's 10 districts: two of them are in Eixample (which also includes the iconic, eternally under-construction Sagrada Familía), one is in Ciutat Vella (the 'old city' district that includes the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla), three are in Sant Martí, one is in Sants-Montjuïc, three are in Gràcia, and one is in Horta-Guinardó.

The 66-year-old Bodega Quimet has been in the care of two brothers, David and Carlos Montero, for the past 10 years. “I think it’s great that the city council is giving us this recognition because we’re part of the fabric of the barrio,” David told The Observer.

“If not, it will end up as just another Starbucks. It means that people can come here and eat traditional food such as anchovies, boquerones en vinagre or a plate of jamón. “We’ve never tried to be fashionable or to attract tourists. We’ve never wanted to lose the essence of being a bodega in and for the barrio.”

Unfortunately, not even the residents of the barrio can stop in for a glass of its house wine or a basket of pá amb tomaquet to celebrate; bars and restaurants remain closed throughout Catalonia, although they are allowed to offer takeout or delivery. There is also a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and the Catalonian government has closed its border for 15 days, preventing anyone from traveling in or out of the region. 

But residents remain hopeful that when the city is allowed to re-open, the bars will too. "[A city without bars] is like a forest without trees," one El Periodico columnist wrote. "Bars strengthen ties between neighbors, feed us, become social centers and clubs without a license. Bars are, like parks, the lungs that a city breathes through, to remind itself that it's human."