This story starts in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Pere Romeu worked as an entertainments presenter and waiter in the cabaret Le Chat Noir. Seduced by this environment, he decided to create a similar restaurant in Barcelona. It had to be like a tavern: cheap food and piano music. Some friends backed him up financially, among other, Ramon Casas and Santiago Rusiñol.
Els Quatre Gats opened on June 12th 1897 in the Montsió Street in a building designed by the architect Puig i Cadafalch. It drew attention because it was unusual, refined and artistic details combined with objects could be seen as characteristic of a traditional hostel. It was a little more than an «imitation of Le Chat noir» as Rubén Darío, one of the first distinguished visitors, said; otherwise it would not have become a legendary place. Everyone that came to Barcelona visited the place; the long list would be endless. They expected a different thing, not just a good food. As Rusiñol said, what was essential was «the food of the spirit». This was also the intention of Pere Romeu, who sat with his customers and presided over social gatherings in which «the world was fixed». Shows of Chinese shadows and of marionettes were also made and, to announce them, Ramon Casas painted posters following the fashion of the time.
In 1899, at age 17, Picasso started to frequent the place and carried out his first exhibition in the big room. Also he made the poster that was used as a title page of the menu of the house. Musicians like Isaac Albéniz and his friends Enric Granados and Lluís Millet also visited the 4 Gats, as well as architects like Gaudí and draughtsmen like Ricard Opisso. The streets of Barcelona came off impregnated with the Bohemia that they left and the aroma of those that changed impressions about the future of their time can still be breathed today. Those first years, the most luminous and expressive, have come off retained on the tables and are now hanged on the walls. They are all there: Picasso, Casas, Opisso, Nonell, Rusiñol…; they certify what happened during those years in which the artistic feeling of Barcelona and that of a place full of inspiration vibrated.
But Pere Romeu was an idealist and not a businessman. It seems that if anybody did not have money to pay, Pere Romeu did not take the charge into account nor should the guest wash the dishes. Moreover, those that paid did it at a much reduced price. Keeping this every day there was less income and more debts accumulated. In June 1903, he closed the brewery that he had opened with so much enthusiasm in 1897. The closing left everyone from Barcelona surprised. Pere Romeu dedicated himself to other activities like motoring, but he continued being poor until his death in 1908, from tuberculosis.
His friend, Santiago Rusiñol wrote: «that picturesque place, full of dreams, which frightened the artisan; those pictures on the walls that the girls of the house could not go to see because they liked them too much; that smoke of pipes that made the parishioners of the house drunk of ideas; friend, who you deserve you it, sleep in peace. You had only made the good, and you do not have sorrow of leaving! Yes, we will miss you, and in you we will miss a period in the one that the fantasy made us live».
Afterwards, the premises became the headquarters of the house of the artistic circle of Sant Lluc, until 1936, when the Spanish Civil War changed everything. Many years had to pass before Els Quatre Gats went out of its lethargy and its path started again. At the end of the 70s, three gastronomic businessmen: Pere Moto, Ricard Alsina and Ana Verdaguer, got associated, with new proposals for the cultural environment of Barcelona, for opening its doors again.
In 1989 the employer Josep Mª Ferré, with renewed enthusiasm, started to manage the restaurant and the «Casa Martí», where it is placed, was restored in 1991 within the framework of the campaign «Barcelona posa’t guapa». At present, personalities of all areas.