Sant Antoni neighborhood at the lowest part of the Eixample district has become trendy among young people (and among”not-so-young” people too) in Barcelona, both to live and to have a beer, a sweet vermouth or some tapas. The main reason for this boom effect is its proximity to the city center, combined with the tranquility of its streets and the wide range of bars that makes it lively too. One place that contributes to this is the Bar Olimpia, reopened and renewed less than a year ago by three entrepreneurs: Laura, Carlos and Maria Jose. Laura, tell us more about it…
How did the idea of opening the Olimpia came up?
Long ago Maria Jose and I were looking for a bar to rent. We visited some places but they weren’t what we were looking for at the moment. Until we found the Olimpia Bar and its history, that comes from the 20s. And we said this is our bar! Carlos joined our project later.
How the name of the bar came up?
The bar already had that name. We decided not to change it because of all the history behind it. The block in which it is located, was from 1924 to 1947, Circus Olympia Theatre. It was a multidisciplinary space where you could go and see circus, jazz concerts, boxing, aquatic shows, etc. After it was demolished, back in the 80s, and as Bar Olimpia, had a basement where local musicians and bands rehearsed. There was also a small concert room for underground and alternative rock concerts, including Los Rebeldes performances (a famous Spanish music band). Because of this history, we didn’t even consider the possibility of changing the bar’s name, because that would have been a murder of the whole thing.
Why did you choose the Sant Antoni area to open your business?
We were looking for a central location so we looked at Raval, Poble Sec and Sant Antoni. Sant Antoni finally was our main choice as it was and it is a growing area. We’re thrilled to be part of this expansion, this bubble.
How is the experience of opening a business in Barcelona nowadays?
Well, in Barcelona is still quite “easy” to get a license transfer. Anyway there is a lot of bureaucracy that you have to deal with, and you have to go many times to the City Council to fill out lots of forms. To open a business in Barcelona and to adapt it to the laws and regulations is a constant struggle for everybody, but for now, the satisfaction of seeing your customers happy worth it.
What can we find in Olimpia Bar?
We don’t want to be pigeonhole as a bar serving only one thing. We offer a wide range of quality food and beverages. Sausages and small appetizers, artisan cheeses, fresh fish purchased daily at the Sant Antoni Market. We have a good selection of cocktails made with love. And all this things are combined with good music. So, since we opened, almost every Sunday we do musical “vermouths”, where we invite DJ’s or a music band to put a soundtrack to all of this.
We also hold flea markets every two months. Not selling only clothes and vintage items, but being focused on entrepreneurs that may not have the chance to have an actual store. In the Olimpia Market you can but illustrations, hand-made furniture, photography, jewelry, fashion designers, vintage items, stamping and paper products, etc.
One day I was at the Olimpia Bar and I saw some little stores in a corridor behind the metallic blinds at the bottom of the place. What is exactly this corridor? Is it open to the public?
They are the Olimpia shopping mall. You can get there from Aldana Street and Ronda San Pau. It opened in the 70s and was almost the first shopping mall in the city. It was a commercial boiling point. Now they are almost abandoned but in a recovery process. That’s where we hold the Olimpia Flea Market, in order to bring back the idea of what it was this place. There are some places that are empty and available to rent them at a very affordable price!
Can you tell us something about what will happen at Bar Olimpia in the future or this summer?
Mmmm… We are promoting out new tapas and they are having a great success! We will continue with musical vermouth every Sunday, and we recently started an art project called La Persienale, which is that every two months a graffiti artist paint our internal metallic blind, which communicates with the mentioned Olimpia Shopping Mall, somewhat vindicating the City Council decision of “fining merchants to ask graffiti artists to paint their metallic blind”.
David Mendez Alonso will be the next artists to paint our Persienale, on July the 11th.