“You don’t give anything here what happened that El Palentino is closing today” was the reply given by a young man in his early twenties to one of Father Ángel’s usual patrons, who saw that the queue began with number 8 on Calle del Pez was considerably longer than that of the Church of San Antón, he approached to ask: what are they giving here?

It was the emotional farewell of the “priests” of El Palentino, one of the most emblematic bars in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid, which ended 80 years of history yesterday. The closure was hastened by the death of one of its owners, Chaste Herrezuelo, aged 79. “Closed by death. Don Casto Herrezuelo. San Isidro Funeral Home (Room 14)”. The message posted on the bar’s storefront on February 22 could not be more explicit or genuine.

Yesterday afternoon, a long line formed on the corner of Calle del Pez to drink the last beer in a cult bar that for years has nourished the Madrid scene, particularly based on veal nuggets, and where numerous artists have found their inspiration. like the singer Manu Chao or the filmmaker Álex de la Iglesia for his film El Bar. It was already written in the advertisements Coca-Cola used to try to revive the industry after the crisis, saying that the “biggest social network a Bar…because in a bar we explain ourselves, we write screenplays and we even draft the constitution…we all belong to bars”.

changes in the industry

It may be that we are all bars because in Spain we continue to lead the world rankings of this type of venue. According to the National Hospitality Federation, the current number of drinking establishments is 184,430, which is an average of 4 drinking establishments per 1,000 residents.

And yet “we haven’t even jokingly regained the figures that the sector recorded before 2007, at the beginning of the crisis,” he affirms David Basilio Gomez, manager leftist and CEO of hospitality . Nor does Basilio understand the need to go back to these statistics, considering that the crisis has resulted in a “clean and professionalized industry that was necessary”.

Then there are the changes in consumption. One of the most relevant dates is part of the delivery that has been released Infohoreca Last year its market penetration in Spain accounted for 12% of total sales, significantly outpacing the growth in over-the-counter sales.

It is true that delivery affects restaurants more than bars, but they symbolize this preferential tendency to consume more at home and in private spaces such as the office, instead of going to the bar and having a pincho or a salad with as we used to a drink. The installation of coffee or beverage machines in all enclosed areas has produced the same effect.

Another tendency that Basilio Gómez observes is that of concentration. It relates not only to the fact of the burglary of 7 or 8 large groups that manage most of the facilities, but also to their gathering in certain areas. Add to this the geographic and professional mobility that endangers this type of customer who has worked in the same company all their lives and eaten in the same establishment every day. The main conclusion is that there is little future for the traditional neighborhood bars run by freelancers, except for those who know how to excel through specialization and added value. “These traditional bars, coffee with churros or toast in the morning, tortilla skewers at lunchtime and bravas in the afternoon, have little to do unless they’re in very touristy places or very traditional, which it used to be. The Palentine “.

a cult bar

The very endangered business model described by David Basilio has kept El Palentino alive for 80 years. I rode it in the morning lolithe other owner to serve early risers and after work hours and in the evening Casto Herrezuelo to serve “pepitos” and offer cheap drinks which was another milestone that made it popular with the younger ones.

A little more, because the place wasn’t particularly nice or cosy. I was more drawn to the tavern of my life where friends meet before starting the night and which many have cataloged as “excellent” on Tripadvisor simply for finding a “mythical atmosphere”.

Loli was asked in an interview published last year about a possible transfer of El Palentino when the owners retire. “And who wears it like us? If we’re Palentino, we’re in,” was his reply.

Though handicapped, he was not without reason. They were the most important asset. Some very professional owners behind the bar and one man who got charismatic in the old fashioned way. “Of those who not only know how to throw a beer, but also know how to listen to their customers and get them talking because they’ve known them for years and where the human relationship trumps the commercial,” describes David Basilio . That seems to liquidate the new times.

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