TWO SCHMUCKS, Barcelona, Spain. A five star dive bar, built by Moe Aljaf and A.J white, with their very own bare hands. Twice. Ranked in the Worlds top 100 bars, this venue may appear tiny in size but mammoth in personality. The Blend spoke to Moe, just before their recent renovations and global adventure tour about the venue and what the Raval state of mind means.
What is the bar culture like in your local market and has it progressed during your time in the industry?
F**k yes. Every time I close my eyes, even just for a second, it feels as if there have been massive leaps taken in several directions. Barcelona’s bar scene is really up-and-coming,
It is still a far cry from the major cocktail hubs across the globe, however, an emerging market has its appeals. The city has such a diverse and incredible history, and to be a part of that and shape what is yet to come, is an incredible feeling.
Are there any downsides or challenges you face daily?
Yes, a tonne (laughs); the language is something we’re still learning; anything bureaucratic here is more often than not a difficulty to deal with, especially as a foreigner; and there are licensing limitations.
Do you have any challenges with sourcing supplies and fresh produce?
I believe Barcelona has some of the greatest fresh produce in Europe; pineapples actually taste like pineapples here. In fact, we have several places on our street that we can get all of our produce from, including some of the best mint I’ve ever seen.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Our neighbourhood, musicians, artists, videographers, painters and dope ‘AF’ people. We try to get as much - if not all - our inspiration from outside of the industry. That way it always feels new and it’s fun to bring something from the outside world into the bar industry.
Who’s driving the trends, is it consumers visiting your venue and requesting specific flavours and spirits, or is the venue leading the way?
A bit of both. We know what we serve and how we like it to be served, however, we do change our menu every month and we follow the trends in our bar to guide us.
As for the style and atmosphere, that’s completely ours; we try to reflect ourselves in our venue, music and interiors.
Who is your clientele - locals, tourists or a combination?
A bit of everything really, locals from the neighbourhood, expats and tourists.
You’ve recently renovated, can you share with us the new direction/design for Two Schmucks?
We were extremely short of cash when we set out to open our venue. We didn’t take on any investors and decided to save and fund the innovations ourselves. That way, we had full creative freedom.
We had ideas before we started the bar, however, over the past 18 months we have found out more about who we are as a bar team and those ideas have slowly changed.
We will expand from 30 seats to 55 and we will offer a slightly larger selection of products during the day and night.
Our biggest challenge is to keep the soul and atmosphere of Two Schmucks, while completely destroying and rebuilding it.
What motivates you and why do you enjoy this industry?
The process of creation; having nothing and making it into something that you share with the world. That sh*t gets me going.
In which moment in your career did you know this was your passion?
Aj and I got to a point in our working lives when we realised we were either doing our own thing or we were out. That was a massive sign for us that we were ready to start our own business.
I love bars in any way, shape or form. More than that though, I love creating things and I hate being limited to operate within certain walls. Getting this bar has definitely shown us the direction in which we want to proceed.
What do you think the industry needs more of?
Personally, I’d love to see more independent bars. I get inspired by how they overcome obstacles in their market. When you don’t have massive funding, creativity kicks in.
Professionally, I’d love to see more bars focusing on more than just the cocktail. It’s about having a combined selection of great cocktails, wines, beers, coffee etc. That is something many of my favourite bars are doing and we are doing.
Key to that is education; I want bartenders to be able to tell me as much about their wines, beers and coffees as their artisanal, limited edition mezcal.
What do you think the industry needs less of?
Hiring marketing and public relations to tell the story of your business. A 19-year-old snapping the same old cocktail photos and using every hashtag imaginable, with a cheesy line about why you should drink on a Tuesday, is the equivalent of pictures in food menus. If you as a bar owner choose to spend money and time on marketing, then for the love of god, put as much detail and consideration into every other aspect of your work.