'This isn't a bar, but we have a bar,' says Sergio, a factotum at La Virgen, to a couple crossing the threshold. 'You have to join the association: write your names here, it costs €1 a year and you get a membership card.' It's that easy to become a member of the La Virgen 'cultural centre', a space with high ceilings and rotating fans, brick walls, no two tables the same, and a bathroom filled with suggestive collages of vintage lustful images that still get us going.
One fine day in the old warehouse of the bar where Manchester now thrives, four friends decided to make it their own, remodel it and turn it into a place with happenings including performances, poetry, exhibitions and live music. Since then, for example, Thursdays are see La Virgen packed with members grooving to the the gypsy jazz jam with the Trio Barnouche, and the first Saturday of every month La Virgen spreads into the street to welcome second-hand market El Rastro.
The varied clientele includes students, expats and those who are curious about the more Bohemian side of Barcelona nightlife. There's also a wide variety of looks among the patrons, showing everyone's welcome. The price of a beer depends on whether there's a show or not, but they'll whip you up a bikini (toasted ham and cheese sandwich) for €2.50. You won't get the strongest signal on your mobile, and because it's registered as a cultural association rather than a bar, you can smoke 'em if you've got 'em!