Goodbye Colmado Quilez, goodbye Barcelona


For those who love Spain and haven’t been in awhile, you’ve basically lost your chance to see the country as it was. Starting January 1, 2015, the commercial rent control law of 1964 is no longer in effect. Ruthless dictator Franco enacted this law in the middle of the 20th century to try and stabilize the Spanish economy by giving businesses a break and not having them be at the whim of property speculation. Much like rent control on an apartment, the monthly payments for business spaces could only go up each year by a small amount to take in account inflation and in some ways it worked. Smarter people in political office after the return to democracy (the Socialists) realized this but after extending the law twice, the current party in power, Partido Popular has decided its mandate to be the dismantling of the country and decided to not extend it a third time.

The knock down effect of this will be massive. Rents in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona will go up 10 fold if not in some cases 35 fold over what the current occupants are paying. This asshole article on Bloomberg points out that it’s a super duper time to invest in Spanish commercial space while leaving out the fact that this is destroying literally thousands of old businesses in the country and potentially laying off 200,000 people. Some say that this is simply the free market at work, but it’s not as if these spaces are now being re-rented by other Spanish companies but large, international mega corporations who have the ability to pay whatever they want to get an old business evicted, take over the space, and then a year later force the owner down to a much lower price.

This would be the reason that the only thing you see in the center of Barcelona’s old town is H&M, Mango, and Zara shops. Sure, they keep the old façades, but there is nothing of the original soul, character, or history left. It could easily be New York, London, or San Francisco. If you were to have visited Barcelona 10 years ago and now, you’d never recognize the town, nor would you be able to find anything to eat beyond tapas.

This brings us to Colmado Quilez. An institution that undoubtedly anyone who have visited the city has seen, this old school goods shop with a large wine selection has been in operation at the corner of Rambla Catalunya and Carrer d’Aragó for 107 years but now in 2015, they’re done. While they tried to work out a new arrangement with the owners taking in to account that the owners can charge whatever they want, they were able to negotiate with all but one of them. As this is a big store, it has multiple spaces with multiple owners. This one owner wouldn’t back down and so after over a century, they’re closed.

What’s to take over the space? Who knows, but undoubtedly some large chain who will again initially pay whatever the owners want for this prime spot. This is happening again and again in the larger cities of Spain, but in the smaller ones, the owner simple demands more, the tenant can’t pay it, and so they have to close. But instead of a chain store moving in, the shop stays empty. A local wine shop I knew in Figueres called Can Salip had this happen and the space has and will probably remain empty indefinitely as Figueres is definitely no Barcelona.

The very rancid PP party and their property developer buddies are in heaven right now, but once the dust has cleared, they might start to understand that by destroying these small, local businesses, they’ve destroyed the reason that people came to the cities in the first place but it will then be too late as we’ve already lost a defining aspect of what makes Spain, Spain just so that a Fnac and Starbucks are within arm’s reach at all times.