The historic owner of Barcelona's Pinotxo bar, Juan Bayén, died this Tuesday of natural causes at the age of 88. Known as Juanito to those closest to him, he worked at the Pinotxo bar in the city's Boqueria Market for almost 80 years, turning his modest stall into one of the city's most emblematic establishments. It was just four months ago, last December, that he announced that he was retiring from the bar, and since then there have been some surprising developments at the bar Pinotxo: first, it was announced that the well-known Boqueria bar had closed after being sold; then barely a week later, it reopened. Now, just a month further on, Juanito has said his last goodbye.
The legendary Bayén was born in the Raval neighbourhood, in which the market stands, in 1934, and started working behind the bar of the symbolic bar at the front of the market with his mother Catalina almost eighty years ago now. Catalina started by making sandwiches and coffees, but over time, Juanito redirected the gastronomic offer towards traditional Catalan dishes such as cap i pota stew, chickpeas with botifarra negra sausage, or squid with beans, among many others, receiving the City of Barcelona Award for Gastronomy in 2015.
The recent difficult situation of the Pinotxo bar
The Pinotxo bar closed last February 20th due to disagreements between Juan Bayén and his nephews. The historic market stall failed to raise its shutters that Monday, and was never to do so again with quite the same essence. Although only a week later the bar did reopen under the same name and with new owners, this was a mirage that lasted only a few days. An agreement was made among the younger family members who were managing it to permit the reopening, but this was rapidly discarded, and it is now the management of another Boqueria market establishment who are keeping the flame burning: the staff of the nearby Bar Central. Thus, a few weeks ago, the new owners gave the old place a new name: El Mític Bar - the mythic bar.
In fact, the courts had a role in this: Barcelona's Mercantile court number 9 ordered, as an interim measure, for the current owner of the stall to withdraw the original name of the establishment. Bar Pinotxo was a joint venture between Juan Bayén and his nephew, Jordi Assín, who was still active and the decision to reopen while keeping the famous name led to legal action being taken. Now it will be necessary to see how this matter evolves.
Marathon runner Juanito, a familiar face to millions
Juanito, a long-distance runner for many years, ran eighteen marathons, one of them that of New York City. Until recently it was common to find him around Montjuïc working a up a sweat. He used to joke: "They've stopped letting me run marathons because I used to win them all." For years he opened the bar every day at 6 o'clock in the morning, before the traffic lights were even on - at least that's how he explained it to his Pinotxo friends and customers. Over time he became an icon of the Boqueria, loved by everyone because of his affable character. Taking a stool at the bar of Pinotxo (which is Pinocchio in Catalan) meant settling into a bygone era, at least for the time you spent enjoying a tallat or vermut. He always said: "You know what my problem is? That I'm never tired".