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Benidorm for years has been the UK’s staple holiday destination with Britons often returning year in and year out to their favourite businesses on the famed Costa Blanca. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the resort town was a magical holiday destination that attracted millions of people each year. “It was getting bigger on the world stage,” says Benidorm business owner Simon Barker.
“And out of season was in fact increasing for all bars because Benidorm was getting people coming out of season – it was cheap, it was local to London and yet the weather was good.
“All those things were increasing trade out of season.”
Mr Barker owns two businesses in Benidorm; Bar 69, a tourist bar in Benidorm’s Old Town; and 69s Not Just Burgers.
Originally from the UK, Mr Barker has owned Bar 69 for eight years and 69s Not Just Burgers for two years.
The business owner told Express.co.uk about some of the hurdles businesses in Benidorm have faced since the pandemic forced some Spanish businesses to close on March 13.
“We’ve had covid since March 13 here,” he began.
“We had to close. Everyone was told to close on March 13 by the government and then a law came in where we had to wear masks out and about to go to the supermarket, wash your hands etc.”
For Mr Barker, Spain’s restrictions have meant that there are rules on when he can open and close his bar and how many people are allowed in at one time.
The bar owner explained: “At the moment, we’re coming into out of season, most people will want to sit inside.
“We’re a terraced bar so we have seats outside – during the day it’s 18C to 20C so you can sit quite comfortably but at nighttime people want to be inside. But you’re now restricted to 30 percent of your legal limits.
“For Bar 69, our legal limit is 21 inside so we’re allowed to have seven indoors, including a member of staff so that’s six customers.
“The Spanish will sit there with half a lager for an hour – financially it just doesn’t work. People cannot afford to open.”
On October 25, the Spanish government declared a nationwide State of Emergency which includes a national obligatory overnight curfew.
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The curfew times vary with some starting between 10pm and midnight and lasting until 6am.
Based in the Valencian Community, Benidorm’s curfew is between midnight and 6am.
Between these hours, persons and vehicles are not permitted to circulate on public streets and squares.
Currently, entry and exit of persons from the territory is also restricted unless it’s for an essential purpose.
The State of Emergency also means that regional governments have legal powers to impose certain restrictions.
Bars are also licensed by “the local government or council” which means there are different licences too.
Mr Barker explains: “We’re a 2am bar so we have to close at 2am normally.
“Some of the bars are 4am bars and yet they haven’t actually been allowed to open by law – apart from for about three weeks over the summer – since March 13.
“Because they’re licensed until 4am, they haven’t been able to open.
“Even if they closed when we have to close now which is midnight – they still won’t be able to open. So for a lot of people they’ve had no business since March 13.
“This is continuing and think will continue – hopefully not until Christmas – but I think until March next year. They could be going for a whole year without any income at all.”
For a lot of bar owners in Benidorm, they simply can’t afford to stay open because of rental costs.
As Mr Barker explained, a lot of people who own a bar in Benidorm rent it from a landlord and they also rent their own accommodation.
“So they’ve got two lots of rent and no income,” he added.
“In that way, it’s just been really, really difficult. Especially for people who opened bars either late last year or early this year.”
Compared to other towns on the Costa Blanca, Benidorm has been hit “harder” with others being quieter but “not as quiet as Benidorm”.
Mr Barker has seen his business drop by 95 percent due to the impact of COVID-19.
“Two days in the last two weeks – opening at 3pm and closing at 11pm, we took one euro in a day,” he added.
“This covid has just wiped it [Benidorm] dead, to put it bluntly.”
“A lot of places just literally haven’t been able to open and with no help at all it’s just sad – I feel so sorry for them.”
Mr Barker has seen several bars close in Benidorm due to the coronavirus pandemic, with others simply shutting up shop until business makes a comeback.
He said: “I know three or four bars that have definitely closed and they’ve handed the keys back and that’s within 100 yards of our bar.
“And three or four businesses that have closed that will reopen at some time when the business is there but they’ll open somewhere else – they’ve pulled out of the premises.
“And more will happen the longer this goes on.”
For now, the future looks bleak for Benidorm as the UK and other nations continue to impose travel restrictions on holidaymakers returning from Spain.
However, news of a coronavirus vaccine and a potential reduction in the UK’s quarantine period is already having a positive impact on consumer confidence.
Mr Barker is hopeful that the resort will see numbers pick up next year.
He said: “For us going forward, we have to adhere by the government and health guidelines and make sure we have the correct PPE for staff and customers.
“Benidorm is very lucky because people come back again and again and support local businesses.”
He added: “I think it will get some business next year. Hopefully by the summer we will – if we were back to 50 percent it would be superb.”
“Give it two years, I think it will be rocking again.”
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