I thought it would take less time. I budgeted for 6. My sanity budgeted for about 8, then left me for a stable guy with a nine to five who owns his own semi (I have since heard he likes a warm spread of chocolate on the chest, if you know what I mean).
12 months ago we started on the search for a restaurant space in Barcelona. At first they showed me rubbish. I mean, these were really depressing establishments. The type that didn’t even have a past glory to live off. They were places that were never once new, never once loved, and certainly never fabulous.
They were terrible and they generally smelt of old squid.
Then I hit a rich vein, I saw venues that weren’t so depressing. They too smelt of squid, but at least the fryers still worked, even if nobody had ever cleaned them.
I made further enquiries, sniffed a few tangy butts. Nothing.
Come February, things were looking bleak. Then Eureka! I struck gold. We found a place in the Raval, the owners were nervous and desperate, they looked like they owed dangerous people money. We were in.
We got fucked.
We moved on, we struck gold again. Well, glittery lead.
Burned by our previous experience, we offered too much. Unsurprisingly the offer was gleefully accepted. We went through hell to convince the landlord that we were viable tenants. They wanted a 50 grand rental deposit, I called all my old contacts, bank managers, lawyers, accountants, suppliers. I begged. I built a dossier of references, translated them and presented them. My character was questioned over and over. After weeks and weeks they finally reduced the deposit to €15k.
Alright, we are go. And just in time for my birthday.
So we found ourselves in an office at a big long table with the landlord and the seller, the two men who had just spent the last month gnawing away at my character. We agree to sign in two days. I ask for their bank details to make the transfer.
“Bank details? What bank details?”
“No no no. Don’t be silly” As if they were giving me a noogie.
“You bring cash.”
Needless to say we walked from that one, especially after we discovered that you have to pay 18 percent VAT when buying a business in Spain. Seriously.
We then lurched from farce to headfuck and back to farce again, which included one old Catalan landlord who decided to increase the (long ago agreed) sale price by 30 percent the day before we were supposed to sign. He didn’t bat an eyelid when we said no thanks, but 6 weeks later offered it to us again before signing with someone else without telling us.
We experienced many stories like these, each one so insane and unbelievable that somewhere along the way it just became dull. So I stopped writing about it before this blog became another one of those “foreign project whinge fests.”
And so I had started to become like Jack Lemmon in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” I just couldn’t fucking close. My daughter stopped hanging around with me and my wife started wearing board shorts to bed. As a man, I was nothing. Plus my hair had mushroomed up into a grey flecked helmet. I looked like Isabella Rossellini.
And then we found it. It was small, there were robots on the walls for decoration, It was painted dark purple, but it was in a good area. It had potential.
So we fought, we scrapped, we offered way too much again. We even went to important meetings without a translator and babbled Spanglish the whole way through. There were many many legal grey areas.
“So what was that bit they were talking about with the lease?”
“I don’t know, I thought you knew”
“I don’t fucking know, you were nodding away like you understood, so I started eating the lollies on the table. Did you try those, they were so old and chewy, I think I’m getting cramps”
But this time, we were going to close. We made it tantalising, they had euro signs flashing in their eyes. But it wasn’t easy. Spain is a place where the quick, illegal, cash route is still favoured in these situations, where you can end up with a massive tax bill, a jail term and the burden of someone else’s contractual obligations forever if you aren’t vigilant.
With the help of our gestor, we got through.
So here we are. About fricking time.