British photographer Leah Pattem (of the Madrid No Frills blog) has been documenting Madrid’s traditional dive bars and cafés for the last two years. Now with over 100 photos of bar fronts, her series, titled 100 Of Madrid’s No-frills Bars, captures the unique charm of each locally-loved haunt before they close their shutters for good.
“These bars are special because they underpin local communities,” Pattem tells My Modern Met. “But due to a combination of increasingly low footfall and soaring rent prices, these bars are sadly closing by the week.” Gentrification is an issue for many cities, but the bustling metropolis of Madrid is changing faster than ever. The city’s small, family-run bars can be found on almost every street corner and have been a key part of local culture for many years. However, today they are being increasingly replaced by modern franchises, leaving small businesses with no choice but to close.
Each no-frills bar looks like it’s frozen in time, with many featuring original hand-painted signs, striped awnings, and retro neon lighting. Some of Pattem’s images even show proud owners and waiters standing outside, many of whom are dedicated to serving their community for as long as they can.
Thanks to Pattem’s ongoing series, these bars have experienced a little bit of a revival recently. “My photography series seems to have captured the hearts and minds of people all over Spain,” she reveals. “They’re suddenly able to see something ordinary in a new light—one that I, a young British woman, have been able to show them. People are now already venturing out and drinking in their local watering holes once again, reviving their love for the local, no-frills bars and helping save a key part of Spain’s heritage!”
You can see more from the photo series on the Madrid No Frills blog.