Madrid’s booziest street,  with 72 bars in just 1km

A RESIDENTIAL street in Madrid, which has morphed into a theme park, is now known as the hottest road in the capital, according to Lonely Planet.

Its guide to Madrid describes it as being “lined with tapas bars and cocktail spots in Madrid’s Chamberí neighbourhood, which has rocketed in recent years.”

One in two commercial premises along this one-kilometre stretch of the capital is a bar… in fact, there are 72 in total! Back in 2008, bars constituted 34% of the street’s commercial activity, but that figure now stands at 49%. And they are all open for business, seven days a week.

Such is their success that queues form outside some of these venues, just to get a beer, or a glass of wine.

But while the bars are bustling, the residents are angry, fed up with the relentless noise. Parking space has also become a problem, not to mention the gentrification of the area and the landlords’ strategies, forcing out long-term tenants in favour of tourists.

“The area is almost at breaking point,” said Julio López de la Sen, President of El Organillo neighbourhood association.

And, says López de la Sen: “The rise in bars, which is pushing out other local business, is going to end by pushing out the residents.

“It has happened gradually. We’ve been aware of it, but it is now out of control. It is hard to imagine the problems that ‘ponzaning’ brings.”

‘Ponzaning’ is a term, coined a few years ago by area entrepreneurs, to describe the activities of drinking, eating and having fun, which they defined as “a trend” and “a philosophy”.

Ponzano street wasn’t always synonymous with fashion, but Michelin-starred chef and MasterChef panellist Pepe Rodríguez fuelled its popularity in 2015, when he said: “Two of my favourite restaurants are on this street,” referring to El Doblado and Taberna Averías.

The neighbourhood’s turning point probably happened 10 years earlier, when the Sudestada restaurant opened up. Until

then, Ponzano street was on the fringes of Madrid’s celebrated bar and restaurant scene.

Almost instantly, Sudestada became a roaring success, with chef Estanis Carenzo receiving praise, not only from clients but also from fellow chefs such as Dabiz Muñoz from DiverXo.

In 2013, the Academia de Despiece opened with its adjacent Sala de Despiece, which offered an innovative combination of dinner and gastronomy masterclass.

Two years later, La Contraseña popped up, and then, in July 2016, the street became absorbed into the local Fiestas del Carmen, consolidating its “hot” reputation.

“The problem was obvious then,” said 68-year-old Pilar Rodríguez, district spokeswoman for Socialist Party (PSOE) and a resident of 30 years in the area

At first, the new bars were welcomed, and Rodríguez, a pharmacist, was told by locals 15 years ago that it was a relief to see different businesses coming to the area.

After all, this was a neighbourhood with one of Madrid’s largest, ageing populations!

In fact, it still is: there are 220 residents over the age of 65 for every 100 under the age of 16. It is also the area with the most female residents: 78,140 women to 61,308 men.

“Many years ago, Ponzano street needed an injection of life, but this is too much,” said Rodríguez, who also sits on the Board of Noise, which was set up in 2015. “What we need now is some peace and quiet.”

Four years ago, a new bar opened every two months, and there is now a watering hole every 15 metres. 7

The phenomenon is one side of the coin, while the other is the closure of small retailers, after decades of struggle. There has been a 3.5% decline in local business in the Madrid region since 2014, while the number of food and drink establishments has risen in the same period by 1.2%.

But the local mum-and-dad stores, selling clothing, electronics or spectacles, have more than bars to blame.

For years they’ve been dealing with competition from shopping centres, rising rent, and most recently, the popularity of online sales.

Ponzano street is undergoing a huge transformation, with bars replacing local shops. Where there was once an antique store, there is now a trendy café, and instead of a bakery, there is a cocktail bar.

Even some of the original venues, which triggered the trend, have gone out of business, such as the iconic Sudestada, which shut in 2017. The most recent to go under is Lambuzo, which specialised in cuisine from Cádiz.

The vacuum is filled quickly by chain restaurants and cocktail bars. But a few of the smaller outfits continue to thrive, such as Charnela, whose owner Alejandro Yravedra specialises in cuisine, using home-grown ingredients.

He has long dreamed of setting up a food-and-drink business, having invested all his savings in a street with a good future, the way he sees it.

And who would argue?


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Posted by on Jun 28 2019. Filed under World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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