Barcelona is adding 11 bodegas — traditional wine bars — to its list of protected cultural heritage sites, as the city attempts to save businesses that are struggling amid soaring rents, chain store competitors and tightening coronavirus restrictions. 

In Spain, the bodega is a wine bar or cellar that typically serves food, alongside vermouth, sherry and wine, sometimes straight from the barrel. Many of them are small, decades-old and offer a faithful representation of local life. But many are facing an uncertain future under rising rents in Spain, in addition to the economic threat of the pandemic. In Catalonia, rising coronavirus cases have forced authorities to apply increasingly stricter measures. But most bars are too small to adhere to social distancing rules, and cannot offer takeaway or delivery services when they are forced to temporarily close under tightening coronavirus restrictions. 

People at Quimet i Quimet tapas bar, Barri Gotic
People at Quimet i Quimet tapas bar in Poble Sec ©Michael Heffernan/Lonely Planet

These difficulties have encouraged Barcelona's city council to step in and apply protected status to 11 of the Catalonian capital's bodegas. The initiative was launched in July last year, before the pandemic hit. It seeks to protect at-risk and traditional retailers who may be ousted from the city by soaring rents and chain store competitors. According to the council, most of the bodegas added to the list have had "an important social influence" on their neighborhood and "retain aspects of historic interest and originality".

They join about 220 at-risk retailers, including bookshops, toy shops, grocery shops and furniture workshops, have already been granted protected cultural heritage status.  "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 Montero, who runs Bodega Quimet in Gràcia told the Observer. “If not, it will end up as just another Starbucks."

Glass of vermouth on zinc bar
Glass of vermouth in a bodega ©Mark Read/Lonely Planet

The bodegas added to the protected list include:

Bodega Sopena (en Sant Martí)
Bodega J.Cala ( Sant Martí)
Bodega Marín (Sant Martí)
Bodega Quimet (en Gràcia)
Bodega Manolo (Gràcia)
Bodega Vendrell (en Eixample)
Celler Miquel (Eixample)
Bodega Salvat (en Sants-Montjuïc)
Bodega Lluís (en Sant Andreu)
Bodega Massana (en Horta-Guinardó)

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