Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse, Café Comercial, closes down after 128 years

Owners have not given any concrete reasons for the closure of the legendary establishment

Café Comercial, whose doors are now closed and papered over.Video: Á. G.

The doors of Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse and bar, Café Comercial, remained firmly shut on Monday, bringing an end to 128 years of activity. The surprise closure was announced via the establishment’s official Facebook page, but no reason was given for the move.

“We don’t know what happened,” said longtime employee Felipe Majano, 60. “They didn’t give us any reasons. All they said was that we’re closing, and that was it.”

“After so many years of activity, we inform our clients that we are closing. Thank you!”

Majano and other workers were told some days back to attend a meeting on Monday morning with owners Isabel Contreras and María Isabel Serracató, who are cousins. The pair came to the meeting accompanied by their lawyers.

“They gave us a document to sign with our severance pay, the reason being that they just didn’t want to continue running the business,” he said.

Café Comercial – a popular meeting point on the Glorieta de Bilbao roundabout, just steps from the Bilbao Metro station – was founded on March 21, 1887, according to the earliest document mentioning the establishment in the Madrid city archives.

A promotional video celebrating 125 years of Café Comercial.

They gave us a document to sign with our severance pay, saying they just didn’t want to continue running the business”

“It is painful to write a message such as this one but closing day has arrived, and for this reason, we want to give thanks to all of you who supported us for the many years that were filled with marvelous experiences,” the owners wrote.

The famous coffeehouse was also a preferred meeting place for writers and novelists, such as brothers Antonio and Manuel Machado, Jardiel Poncela and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, author of El Jarama.

Journalists also made it their preferred venue for holding debates known in Spanish as tertulias. Among the regulars were Cortes Cavanillas, who for 21 years served as Rome correspondent for Spanish daily ABC, and Antonio Mingote, the editorial cartoonist who also was a language professor.

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Actors such as Celia Gámez and Antonio Casals, and singer-songwriters such as Javier Krahe, who died just two weeks ago, were also Café Comerical regulars.

The Contreras family had owned the establishment since 1909, and until Monday it was being operated by the third generation of the clan.

In 2000, the Madrid regional government awarded Café Comercial the honor of best coffeehouse in the city.

City Hall, which is in the hands of new party Ahora Madrid, has not received any formal request from Café Comercial’s owners for any type of assistance or financial aid over the past month, according to officials.

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