The wild transformation of the Madrid nightlife: this is how the children of the ‘jet-set’ have changed the hospitality industry
“If I go on a date with you and the first thing I do is ask for a whiskey, you will take me for an alcoholic, but if while we are having dinner they serve us some cocktails and we drink them with a delicious but simple menu, with a fusion of Spanish and international cuisine Well, it will be very different,” says Fernando Nicolás jokingly while ordering a cane and some Navarra asparagus on the terrace of El Castizo, the Serrano venue that is part of the Larrumba group, a restaurant and leisure group he founded in 2014 together to his friends Alonso Aznar (son of the former president) and Chiqui Calleja, and who he now chairs.
Nicolás, who studied at CUNEF, defines himself as an investor, and has just welcomed Ignacio Blanco, a senior executive from the aeronautical industry, as CEO to his company. He has reached this strategic point of the Madrid Fifth Avenue mounted on an ultralight bicycle and dressed in a T-shirt and shorts. His image is closer to that of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur than that of a financial shark or businessman at night, and yet it is by combining these two roles that a true hotel revolution has taken place in Madrid: “20 years ago the night consisted of going to dinner, then going to what was called a special bar, where you would have your first drink until half past three in the morning, and finally you would go to a discotheque”. He and his friends realized that offering dinner and a drink in the same place could change everything. This is how Marieta was born, in 2014, offering this formula right on Paseo de la Castellana, next to Green, one of the city’s historic “good” nightclubs.
Marieta was the first of the 25 premises that they now manage, to which they will soon add another one, of 3,000 square meters located in the heart of the so-called Madrid World Trade Center, Picasso Tower. “Once you get used to that comfort, there is no going back. It’s like when they put home automation at home”, he says after greeting his friends from the neighborhood, the one from Salamanca, who are heading towards one of the lively and jungle terraces that have sprung up in the Plaza de la Independencia, in front of the Puerta de Alcalá: this exotic decoration, with velvet upholstery, rattan elements, plants and torchlight is a distinctive sign of the new night Madrid, now dominated by groups that have followed in the wake of Larrumba.
“In this new Madrid, the Jorge Juan phenomenon has also been very important, instigated by the owner of the Umbrella group, Sandro Silva, and his Amazon, always full of elegant gentlemen and spectacular women,” says a public relations officer from the sector who prefers not to reveal his identity. identity. Silva, who, like Nicolás, sold part of his business conglomerate to an investor, has acquired a flagship on the Gran Vía, the Metropolis building, which Antonio López immortalized and which will now become a hotel that will be filled with branches of all its restaurants (among which is the pioneer Ten con Ten): to the smooth transition from dinner to a drink is added the possibility of going to bed just a few meters away, with all the malicious comments that this entails. Nearby, in the Plaza de Canalejas, is the new luxury shopping center that bears the same name and next door, the Four Seasons hotel, with its gastronomic terrace with spectacular views over the city in a historic building.
All this boom has instigated a sophistication of the offer that includes the possibility of attending a show while eating dinner. El Salvaje opened fire with this model, an independent venue initially located on Velázquez street (now with two more locations, in La Moraleja and in the aforementioned Canalejas), whose center is presided over by a huge rhinoceros and where, while the waiters serve fusion cuisine, some dancers perform dances that animate the roost. Fernando Nicolás and his partners have taken this same formula to the Paseo de la Castellana, where every Sunday at the Fanático restaurant (whose center is dominated by an elephant) a party called Masaka, Living Africawhere a casting that looks like it came out of The Lion King He does tribal choreography while the attendees, dressed for a party even though the next day is Monday, wave sparklers. A night in Fanático costs 200 euros. “All this has also caused prices to rise a lot. Before the pandemic, the average ticket in Madrid could be around 45 euros. Now for less than 75 you don’t go to any half-decent place, ”says the public relations officer.
The president of the Association of Hoteliers of Madrid, José Antonio Aparicio, agrees that, in effect, the ticket media has risen in price, but considers that this increase has to do with the increase in the prices of raw materials and the vaunted inflation more than with any fashion; Apart from that, he does not consider that this type of premises have changed the landscape to the point of harming other business models: “What worries us and the only thing we want to insist on is that each store abide by the opening hours of its CNAE code (National Classification of Economic Activities). And within that schedule, well, everyone who does what they see, of course… Giving drinks or offering a show is not so new: in Madrid there has always been a lot of after-dinner and after-dinner culture”.
What is perhaps newer is that all the most successful businesses are organized into hospitality groups that compete with each other while sharing partners and a creative approach. “There is a huge inbreeding. It is easy to find the same name in several holdings at the same time”, says the public relations. The last to arrive at the club have been those of the Grupo La la la, directed by Luis Torremocha, a close friend of the eldest son of the Infanta Elena, Felipe Froilán Marichalar. There is also a contagion effect in names: forceful adjectives with double meanings (La Mamona, La Bientirada, La polla del pollo) fill the streets with the most expensive square meters. Even a classic like Fortuny, the spectacular 19th century mansion that, after a bad spell, the pioneer of sophisticated nightlife Javier Merino was forced to put up for auction, has risen from its ashes trying to follow in the wake of the new hoteliers. Its public relations director, Fernando Candela, who does not want to clarify the financial situation of the Merino emporium, has much more extensive experience than Fernando Nicolás (he has been dedicated to restaurants and leisure for more than 20 years), but that does not prevent him from recognize the merits of Grupo Larrumba: “They have done very well with the new generations, who take better care of themselves, who drink in a different way and who no longer want to be in a disco until late. Everything has become something more 360. Before, the responsibility of having fun was only the client’s, now it’s not like that”.
For this reason, to adapt to the new times, in the reopening of Fortuny they have tried to create an experience that includes gastronomy and drinks, but also four completely redesigned spaces to offer four different types of experience. The jewel in the crown is the central patio, full of trees and fountains, which is heated by a marquee. All the options go through the restoration and the drinks, whose price and speed when reserving a seat are the only criteria when allowing access. “Before it made a lot of difference if you were posh, underground, of a tribe. Now everything is very mixed. If you come with shorts or a tracksuit we are not going to throw you out, you are going to be comfortable or not. The codes have been totally blurred”, says Candela, who asks that he not be called “businessman of the night”. He insists that the profile of entrepreneurs dedicated to nightlife has radically changed: “I have studied Law and a master’s degree in Marketing and Communication. Leisure entrepreneurs have seen that Spain is a country with many possibilities, and before, being a leisure entrepreneur was stigmatized or was only something appropriate up to a certain age, now it is as aspirational as being a banker”.