Fabled cafe La Biela likely to close permanently

milanesas

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A few years ago I was doing business consulting for a classic San Telmo bodegon where famous Argentine writers and politicians frequented in the past and continues to have a loyal client base. The place was family owned and while it might have been successful in the past no one had done any analysis of revenue/costs or updated the menu in years. When I analyzed the extensive menu I discovered they lost money on the majority of the menu items, pricing strategy was arbitrary, only the cheapest (lowest margin) possible wine/beer offerings were available and the number of employees was ridiculous and basically consisted of the entire extended family and friends.

I'm completely aware that restaurants globally, successful or not, are suffering and closing currently, but having a poorly run business sure doesn't help or allow you to be extra creative and flexible right now. I'm not knowledgable of the business state of La Biela or the other places mentioned before March, but my casual impression was that they were in business because of their past glory, not so much their current offering.
 

garryl

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This is James Carville on Trump, the great campaign adviser.
Joe and I saw him running outside La Biela, dressed like a homeless person wearing the shoes from a yard sale :)
He probably gave bad advice and caused Macri to win the election.

 

Rich One

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This is James Carville on Trump, the great campaign adviser.
Joe and I saw him running outside La Biela, dressed like a homeless person wearing the shoes from a yard sale :)
He probably gave bad advice and caused Macri to win the election.

OMG still around. Was he the one that advised Bill Clinton's campaign to get reelected after the Lewinsky debacle.? a maverick.
 

sergio

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As many commented here, Los Galgos is a prefect example of an "bar notable" that is keeping up with the times. It's not about playing rock music, but more about updating the food and drink menu, some decor, but preserving all the classical architecture.
So they don't play any music? Glad to hear it.
It's interesting that some restaurants have "updated" their menus but La Biela is primarily a cafe, not a restaurant, and there is only so much you can do to "update" coffee, tea and medialunas. Updating tea would mean using tea bags like almost every other place in Argentina. La Biela uses loose tea. That's how I like it and probably all of their patrons. Why would we want inferior tea served in a tea bag? And what is the problem if the place is packed at peak times? I have seen La Biela so crowded on a Sunday that you couldn't find a seat. The problems of late have been due to a collapsing economy and then the quarantine, not a need to globalize the menu, play music and drive out their loyal patrons. Some places are just fine as they are.
 
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Dougie

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So they don't play any music? Glad to hear it.
It's interesting that some restaurants have "updated" their menus but La Biela is primarily a cafe, not a restaurant, and there is only so much you can do to "update" coffee, tea and medialunas. Updating tea would mean using tea bags like almost every other place in Argentina. La Biela uses loose tea. That's how I like it and probably all of their patrons. Why would we want inferior tea served in a tea bag? And what is the problem if the place is packed at peak times? I have seen La Biela so crowded on a Sunday that you couldn't find a seat. The problems of late have been due to a collapsing economy and then the quarantine, not a need to globalize the menu, play music and drive out their loyal patrons. Some places are just fine as they are.
I'm pretty sure they don't play music, but I can't remember 100%.

I would say loose tea is actually more modern than using those crappy tea bags. To update a menu doesn't mean globalizing it either. For example, some of those classic cafes still use cafe torrado or other coffee that isn't of the highest quality. Maybe it was fine for the tastes of the general public 10 - 15 years ago, but now you can get great coffee from all over the world that is roasted in Buenos Aires. Vivre cafe, Lab, Full House are a few examples. There is no reason they can't purchase the same coffee and "update their menu."

I haven't been to La Biela in 10 years, so I don't really have any comment on it. I agree with your overall sentiment that it's of value to preserve traditional places.
 
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sergio

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I'm pretty sure they don't play music, but I can't remember 100%.

I would say loose tea is actually more modern than using those crappy tea bags. To update a menu doesn't mean globalizing it either. For example, some of those classic cafes still use cafe torrado or other coffee that isn't of the highest quality. Maybe it was fine for the tastes of the general public 10 - 15 years ago, but now you can get great coffee from all over the world that is roasted in Buenos Aires. Vivre cafe, Lab, Full House are a few examples. There is no reason they can't purchase the same coffee and "update their menu."

I haven't been to La Biela in 10 years, so I don't really have any comment on it. I agree with your overall sentiment that it's of value to preserve traditional places.
All businesses should be willing to improve but change for the sake of change is a mistake. A lot of what has happened in Argentina has been the result of globalization. Some of it may be beneficial but a lot has just been fad and has diminished the uniqueness of the country. La Biela serves loose tea most likely because that's the way they've always done it and they are traditional and don't change much (though they aren't so conservative that they don't change prices!). How many places in the city serve real tea, not tea bags? If it's more modern, it sure hasn't caught on. Maybe they could introduce more variety of coffee (I am very happy with the Cafe Doble - the one made fresh, not the one that has been brewed and is served from a pitcher with milk - it's bitter) but I wouldn't want to see any major changes. Introducing music would drive me out - and that's almost certainly what would happen when someone gets the idea to update.
 

Dougie

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I agree with what you are saying sergio. I just think we have slightly different concepts of updating. I mean more improving quality than anything else. I wouldn't want a coffee that was brewed in a pitcher minutes or hours earlier either.

Let's hope for the best.
 
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