The official closing event was held last Friday. / ÑITO SALAS

The iconic Café Central serves its last coffee

Malaga's most famous café closed for the last time on Sunday after over 100 years of service

JUAN SOTO / IGNACIO LILLO

Sunday 9 January 2022 will go down as a sad day in Malaga city's history as its famous Café Central served its final coffee after being open for business for over 100 years.

The establishment's official "goodbye" was held on Friday (7 January), with a celebration held on the terrace for friends and regular customers, who all sang, toasted, drank coffee and ate churros.

The cafés owner, Rafael Prado, was overwhelmed by the closure of his business in the central Plaza de la Constitución.

"I never thought this day would come," he said. Prado hadn't slept for two days. "This is really hard for me. It's like going to work abroad and being separated from your family."

He couldn't even face being present as the café shutters were pulled down for the final time. "I can't do it," he said earlier on Sunday. "I'm going to the football with my grandson and I'll come back for a bit, but I'm not ready for this," he confessed.

A city icon

Café Central, located in Málaga's Plaza de la Constitución, has been the city's most famous place to get a daily dose of caffeine, serving an average of 1,500 cups a day.

The icon mural depicted the types of coffee is to be preserved. / ñito salas

Much of its fame was thanks to the instantly recognisable tile mural located on the café's outer wall, explaining how to ask for your cup of coffee, offering ten types depending on the strength. The most popular were the 'corto' and 'sombra' coffees..

The mural is so famous that Prado has personally offered it to Malaga city hall to exhibit in some point in the city.

Prado doesn't want the future tenant destroying it. "It's part of Malaga's history," he said.

The city's mayor, Francisco de la Torre, accepted the proposal. "We will find a place where it can be looked at by locals and visitors alike," he said on social media this Monday.

The café is steeped in history. It is thought to have first opened its doors early in the 1920s. Although its origins aren't exactly clear, the first references to it are from 1920, when the establishment's name appeared in a city tourist guide as 'Café Central de Manuel Lucena'. It has been owned by the Prado family since 1954.

So why close it?

It would be tough to imagine why one of the city's most famous establishments would close down. The reason is twofold: on the one hand, Rafael Prado is 67 and believed it was time to retire; on the other hand there were problems with the building's ownership, despite it being in the family, which hindered the café doing business going forward as Prado had wanted.

Rafael Prado and his wife on Sunday. / ñito salas

The café also became a souvenir shop of sorts on Sunday, as countless customers went to buy the remaining coffee mugs, with some even asking if they could buy the paintings that decorated the interior.

By midnight, Prado had run out of glasses and mugs to give away, but people were willing to take anything that was left to hold onto a piece of memorabilia.

But despite the café's closure, the essence of the family business will remain firmly in the city. Prado's son Nacho opened a second café, Café Central La Malagueta, in 2018; as well as owning Artisan Coffee Malaga, which sells the family's famous coffee in Plaza San Francisco.

The future of the premises

The question on everyone's mind now is: what happens next? Prado will know as soon as it passes on to the next tenant, as he himself owns a third of the building. "I don't know anything. Whatever is being said is speculation," he said.

Moreover, and despite claims that it could become a McDonald's, Prado said that there are interested parties, but that the owners have to get together to decide what to do, because nothing has been set in stone.

When asked what he wants the café to become, Prado said that he doesn't have an answer just yet.

"I don't have a preference, anything I say is hypothetical. It's true that I have shown some interested people around the premises, although I haven't mentioned the ghosts that live in the building," he joked.

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