Unless you're in the mood for shopping, there aren't many places open while the sun's shining in the Gaixample. For a long time, going for a stroll around the neighbourhood before the night's events got underway was a depressing experience. Not a single café had its doors open, not one barman was pouring anyone an aperitif. Fortunately, this has changed in recent months and, despite economic hard times, some interesting spots have dared to roll up their blinds outside the usual timetable. These three neighbourhood spots are hoping to find their place in the sun during lean times.
Drag queen café
Of the three, Bim Bar (Casanova, 71) is the newest and the gayest. Run by the same folks who brought you Bim Bam Bum right next door, this café and wine bar opened in April with a colourful party. Your man in charge is Carlos Leal, a young Venezuelan who's been living in Barcelona for seven years. By night he's transformed into Luna Diva, a potty-mouthed drag queen who works weekends next door. There's a comfy sofa area near the entrance, several tables as you walk in and a big bar. They're open for lunch from Monday to Saturday, and there's always something to nosh, especially salads and smoothies. It's all very healthy fare, including the waiters, hired - no one's denying it - in part for their good looks, and their eagerness to chat with the clientele. Once darkness falls, Bim Bar moves its espresso machine to the side to make way for the cocktail shakers and blenders until midnight. To keep things lively, Luna Diva herself is sometimes wont to serve a drink or two behind the bar at weekends.
The double entendre
Not far from Bim Bar, on the same street but closer to Gran Via, is Neo (Casanova, 46). An idea brought to fruition by a Turkish-born businessman, the café opened in March. And although in the first few months it shared the same nights-only hours as many an Eixample establishment, Neo is now open every morning. When it's closed, you'll know it by the big ladybird (or 'ladybug', depending on which side of the Atlantic you're from) painted on the shutter door. ('Ladybird' is 'mariquita' in Spanish or 'marieta' in Catalan, but both words also refer to gay man, along the lines of 'fairy' or 'queen', used as a term of endearment by those with good intentions.) Once inside you'll see a large table where you can share lunch with friends and strangers you'd like to be friendly with, and an enormous bar where, at night, you can enjoy a tipple. A bit farther inside is where they keep more tables to sit and have a meal. The kitchen serves up set lunches and dinners at reasonable prices (the set dinner menu at the weekend is a mere €14.50).
Open all day ... and night
And finally, we come to the place that's actually been around the longest: the Osbar (Diputació, 225). If you know a bit of Catalan or Spanish, or if you just fancy 'em furry, you'll know that 'ós' and 'oso' mean 'bear', but that's not where this bar gets its name. The 'Os' in this case comes from the name of the man in charge, Óscar Verde. Open since November 2012, Osbar has a generous schedule. During the week the doors open at 7.30am and the morning is spent serving breakfast. Later you can have lunch or a cup of coffee, and at night it's also a cocktail bar until the other side of midnight, and even later at weekends. The walls show off mini exhibitions by emerging artists, and in the afternoon, they organise activities such as getting together to play board games - in English.