28 February 2018 – El Correo
The Heredia-Spínola family, owner of the property that has been home to the popular Café Iruña since 1903, has the future of one of the large real estate operations in Bilbao in its hands, after putting the building up for sale for €20 million. In addition to the hostelry establishment, which has been operated by the businesswoman Alicia Garmendia since 1980, the building, which has one of the most spectacular chamfered street corners on the Ensanche, also houses more than twenty companies on its upper floors.
Offices for lawyers and attorneys as well as for business and tax advisors, massage salons, yoga and pilates studios, insurance broker desks, psychologist and psychiatric clinics, study and documentation centres and even a nursing home are some of the services that occupy the six storeys of one of the most iconic premises of the Vizcayan capital. The Chinese Institute also has its headquarters in this building with views over Colón de Larreátegui and Berastegi.
There have been lots of comings and goings in the property since its owners expressed their intention to put the building on the market a few months ago. The operation, which is being undertaken with the utmost secrecy, is keeping a large number of its tenants in suspense. Most companies have been paying old rents, which are well below current market prices, for several years. But some are now starting to move out as their contracts are expiring and the new rents, more in line with the prevailing prices in the centre of the town, are proving unviable, both in the office and retail segments.
One of the fashion stores located on the ground floor of the property closed its doors several weeks ago after its rental cost increased. The other – Quo Bilbao – dedicated to the sale of clothing and accessories for women, which has been selling off its stock at a discount for weeks with articles costing between €10 and €50, is still open and has no intention of shutting down (…).
A hotel or luxury homes
Those who are also clear that “under no circumstances” shall they move from the site that they have occupied for 115 years are the managers of Café Iruña, the most popular cafeteria in Bilbao. Coincidently, it will reopen its doors tomorrow after being closed since last Monday to undertake several maintenance and conservation jobs (…). The Iruña Servicios de Hostelería Group confirmed that (…) under no circumstances will the change of ownership affect the operation of the business, which was founded on 7 July 1903 by the Navarran property developer Severo Unzue and which has become famous for its Moorish pintxos, amongst other snacks.
“We employ almost 30 people and we are going to continue”, insisted Garmendia. With two years to go until the current contract expires, only an exorbitant increase in the rental price may call into question the survival of this establishment, which spans 300 m2 and whose décor is inspired by the Mudejars with polychrome ceilings and stunning tiles that captivate thousands of tourists, making it one of the main restaurants of choice in the city (…).
The companies that enjoy this central location are under the impression that the new owners could convert the property into luxury homes or turn it into a hotel (…).
Original story: El Correo (by Luis Gómez)
Translation: Carmel Drake