Catalonia plans law to protect historic shops as rents soar | Catalonia
The Catalan government must introduce a law to protect historic businesses as soaring rents and the pandemic have forced many of the region’s iconic shops and bars to close.
Storefronts and other details over 100 years old are already protected, but pioneering legislation goes further, with owners of shops in listed premises having to apply for permission if they want to change their business. In short, if a pastry closes, it will ideally reopen as a pastry.
“What we need to do is protect intangible heritage,” said Sònia Hernández, director general of cultural heritage for the Catalan government. “The existing law doesn’t protect the things that people now believe we need to protect. The facade and interior of some buildings are already protected; now we also want to protect the activity.
The aim is in part to prevent a repeat of what happened to Colmado Quílez, a popular grocery store that had stood on La Rambla de Catalunya since 1908 and was forced to close in 2014 in the face of a $700 rent increase. %. The signage has been retained but the wine and preserves window has been replaced by expensive costumes, obliterating the essential character of the shop.
Some historic businesses are struggling, like Casa Beethoven on La Rambla, which has been selling sheet music since 1883 and is now an exception among the bars and souvenir shops that dominate the city’s most famous street. It only survives because it has a low fixed rent.
Further up La Rambla, the Musical Emporium, which sold sheet music and instruments for 114 years, is now a currency exchange, and Camiseria Xancó, a supplier of shirts and underwear for 203 years, has succumbed to the pandemic .
Rising rents forced the closure of Herboristeria del Rei, which had been selling herbal remedies since 1818 and was named herbalist to the Spanish royal family in 1857.. Others at risk in downtown Barcelona are Xarcuteria La Pineda and the glove and fan store Guantería Alonso, relics of the city’s history in a sea of chain stores.
Hernández admits that as things stand the government can’t stop landlords from raising rent, but thinks a growing awareness that there’s more to conservation than a hand-painted sign hand can help preserve what remains of Catalonia’s commercial heritage.