I remember when Bodega La Aurora (founded in 1913) celebrated its 100 year anniversary and then sadly, a couple of years later the owner Agustín died. As he had no family members who wanted to continue the business, it was sold to a couple of young guys who more or less maintained the physical aspect of the bar, with a few changes, but really it all changed. It definitely had (still has) a hipster vibe to it and the menu is also different now. Somehow it didn’t seem right that the sign outside still said Founded In 1913, but it was also obvious that the new owners weren’t trying to fool anybody.
Fast forward to 2020, when we lost several of my favourite bars and restaurants. Some reopened with a new name and identity, but others were taken over by large restaurant groups and… well, had their identities stolen. In the case of Casa Eme it was bought by three guys who had always loved the place and they haven’t really changed much, wanting to keep the essence of one of Sevilla’s most singular tapas bars alive. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to check it out. I did go to Bar Manolo in the Plaza Alfalfa, which closed after 85 years and was later totally renovated by Grupo Spala and renamed Casa Manolo… and well, nah.
But for me the two worst examples of blatant identity theft are what happened after two centenario bars closed during and shortly after the first Covid lockdown.
I was never a regular at Bodegas Díaz-Salazar, but I did go there now and again, and it was heartbreaking to learn that the owner committed suicide during lockdown. It remained closed for a while before being taken over by a group that runs several places in town like this. And you know, it infuriated me. Because it still says Founded in 1908 outside the bar and on their website they use the tagline With You Since 1908. The place has been totally redone, maintaining some of the old features, and they have copied the old menu but not the prices. Clearly the renovation and all those uniformed waiters set them back a fair bit, but it is not anything like the old place and IT WAS FOUNDED IN 2021.
The worst of these for me felt very personal because I absolutely adored Bodega San José. And while it would have been understandable if Nicolás Bueno and his sister María del Rosario had decided to close this was not the case. Turns out they were forced out by a greedy landlord who refused to renew their contract. But they still bravely reopened after the first Covid lockdown, even knowing that their days were numbered. And then they were gone. These new owners also make a big deal of their fake heritage with “From 1893” featuring on the (new) awning outside the bar and on their instagram account. I have peeked into the bar and there is just no way. Like Sálazar it now looks like a “tidied up” version of the past that will appeal to pijos and tourists.
And for the record, this isn’t about me wanting to hold on to the past. Another favourite of mine, Casa Antonio – Los Caracoles, also shut for good during lockdown. And while I was very sad to see it gone I was also pleased when the people who took over the space, Cervecería Salmedina, turned it into something totally new and unique. It’s now one of my new favourite spots in the city.
Anyhow, I know that I am ranting into the wind (once again) because I’m sure hardly anyone else cares about this. But I would rather walk past an old favourite bar now renamed and think “that used to be such-and-such” instead of seeing the same name being used by the newcomers, with menus badly copied and false claims to longevity. All to cash in on a history that is not theirs.