MADRID HERITAGE

Building that housed Café Comercial gets official protection from council

Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse, which shut in July, has been given top landmark status

Employees taking items out of Café Comercial after it closed in late July.
Employees taking items out of Café Comercial after it closed in late July.S. Sánchez

Whoever takes over the business premises that had housed Café Comercial for the last 128 years will have to preserve its original look, Madrid City Hall announced on Monday.

The sudden closure of Madrid’s oldest coffeehouse in late July triggered an outpouring of nostalgia from local residents, many of whom stopped by the Glorieta de Bilbao roundabout to leave handwritten notes on the glass door and windows.

No matter what future use the café gets, its new owner will have to preserve the original architecture and ornaments

In a press release, city authorities noted that the establishment is listed as enjoying Level 1 protection from the municipal building department, a category reserved for premises considered to be of great value.

This means that no matter what its future use, the new owner will have to preserve the original architecture and ornaments. The staircase, the bar counter, the lamps, the façade, the wall surfaces, the ceilings, the outside sign and even the indoor furnishings must remain exactly the way they were when Café Comercial was still open for business.

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The city added that the space may now be used for a variety of purposes, including housing, industrial activities, hospitality, retail sales, offices or recreational use – as long as the protected elements are not altered in any way.

Founded in 1887, Café Comercial was once a meeting place for Spanish intellectuals, who held literary soirées – known as tertulias – there. Nobel Literature Prize winner Camilo José Cela developed his idea for The Hive within its walls, and other notable literati who spent time at Café Comercial include Antonio Machado, Jardiel Poncela, Rafael Azcona and Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio.

English version by Susana Urra.

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