Pyrenean mayor looking for families to open restaurant and keep town alive 

Sant Jaume de Frontanyà has lost 85% of all tourism since last restaurant closed

Sant jaume de Frontanyà's church and rectory where the town council wants to open a bar-restaurant
Sant jaume de Frontanyà's church and rectory where the town council wants to open a bar-restaurant / Nia Escolà
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 22, 2024 03:45 PM

January 22, 2024 06:24 PM

With only 32 inhabitants, Sant Jaume de Frontanyà in the Catalan Pyrenees was the smallest town in all of Catalonia until 2017, when the nearby town of Gisclareny took over the title. For years, Sant Jaume was a tourist attraction, welcoming visitors who came to see the small town or some of the best examples of Romanesque art in all of Catalonia, located in the village. With this popularity, the town had two restaurants and an inn.  

But since the Covid-19 pandemic, everything has closed, and the last restaurant closed when its owners retired and there was no one to take over.  

As a result, the town has lost 85% of all its tourists, according to Mayor Manel Anselmo: “It’s like a ghost town with no life outside,” he says. 

Now, the town council wants to open a new restaurant in the town’s rectory, a rundown building, to revive the town’s social life, since there is no place for people to meet. “We don’t even have a place to go to the bathroom,” says the mayor.  

The way Anselmo sees it, a new bar or restaurant in the rectory would help bring back life to the village. 

But that means that a new family would have to come and live there. The reason is that the town council doesn’t have the budget to run a restaurant, despite having tried to find solutions with the county council and the bishopric, which owns the rectory. “We can’t do anything on our own,” says the mayor. 

"A large investment is needed because everything has to be rebuilt. The rectory belongs to the diocese of Solsona, and no one has lived here for two or three years," he added.


Restoring life in Cal Riera  

Another town looking to reopen a space to revive town life is Cal Riera, in the municipality of Puig-reig, an hour's drive north of Barcelona in the pre-Pyrenees area. 

Cal Riera is a company town, where some 30 families now live, although many more used to live there. The town used to have a butcher, a bakery, a bar, and a cooperative store. Three years ago, the community center's bar, which was the last place where residents could meet, closed. 

Now, the bar has reopened, which the mayor of Puig-reig, Eva Serra, hopes will help “bring back the village's social activity.”  

“We had to do it to recover the bond people had and to keep the population of the village,” says Serra. “It won’t return to what it was, but part of the town’s life can be recovered.”   

In January, the Pyrenean town of Estamariu opened its first bakery in 25 years, providing baked goods for the town and the surrounding municipalities.