Benidorm bars are remaining closed in protest as Spain eases its lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis. Spain has the highest number of cases in Europe – a reported total of more than 219,000 – and has sadly suffered more than 25,000 deaths. This week the country made steps towards an eventual return to normality.
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“On April 28, the Spanish government announced a four-stage de-escalation plan to gradually ease the current confinement and mobility measures over an estimated period of at least eight weeks,” explains the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The government continued: “As from May 4, Phase 0 of the de-escalation plan will allow for individuals to do exercise outdoors and for members of the same household to take a walk together outside.
“Urban and inter-regional transport services (i.e. coaches and trains) are operating at reduced levels.
“Travel to airports by road or rail to leave Spain is still permitted, but travellers may be asked to provide evidence that they are departing Spain (i.e. plane ticket).”
Under this de-escalation plan, bars and restaurants with terraces can open 50 percent of the space with effect from May 11.
Takeaways from restaurants also now permitted – although most establishments have not opened for this, deeming it unviable.
The interiors of the bars and restaurants cannot be used until the start of phase three which is likely to be at the start of June and then with a restriction of 50 percent to allow social distancing.
However, an army of bars, restaurants and cafeterias in Benidorm are now rebelling against this new rule.
A lack of tourists makes opening up again with such limitations unprofitable.
Bar and restaurant owners believe that it will not be until October that the British market will return.
As a result, they have said they will remain closed for now if no leeway on restrictions is issued.
They are asking the government to allow 100 percent use of terraces and 70 percent of the interiors – this is the only way opening now is viable, they claim.
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Businesses throughout Benidorm have put up symbolic “Se Traspasa” (“For lease”) signs to demonstrate what will happen as part of a nationwide protest campaign across Spain.
“Either you return to the routine of the past or it will be very difficult for us to move forward because we are an area that works by pulling customers and tourists,” president of the Association of Bars, Restaurants and Cafeterias of Benidorm, Javier del Castillo told the Spanish press.
Owners wish the Spanish government to follow in France’s footsteps.
In France, restaurants and bars closed during the lockdown are not paying their full rents or services.
Javier del Castillo told Europa Press: “Our businesses are closed but we continue to pay rents and it is a lot of money because we have also left the taxes for later and it is going to hit us that when we open we are going to have a huge debt.
“Until October, we do not believe that we will have international tourists, we will only have local clients and nationals. If we do not have enough public, we will not be able to open.”
Benidorm has joined the “Se Traspasa” campaign started by the restaurant and bar trade in other parts of Spain who say they “feel abandoned to their fate by the administration.”
The symbolic “For lease” signs are going up on the resort’s pubs and bars to show “what would happen if our demands are not met.”
Additional reporting by Rita Sobot.
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