As businesses reopen across Catalonia, how was their first day?

Mixed picture with busy bars in some Barcelona neighborhoods but lack of custom elsewhere 

Customers at a cafe terrace in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia in Barcelona, November 23, 2020 (by Aina Martí)
Customers at a cafe terrace in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia in Barcelona, November 23, 2020 (by Aina Martí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 23, 2020 06:38 PM

Across Catalonia on Monday, many premises opened their doors for business again as restrictions eased.

In Barcelona, plazas filled with the sound of conversation and the clink of cutlery as people came out in the weak autumn sunshine to take advantage of the reopened bars, cafes and restaurants.

All in all, 70% of bars and restaurants reopened in the Catalan capital on Monday.

One third of those who remained shut do most of their trade later in the evening, and were put off from opening by the mandatory closing time of 9.30pm, explained industry representative Roger Pallarols.

While in many city neighborhoods staff and customers alike were glad to be back, some establishments in parts of the Old Town who rely more heavily on tourists declined to open.

Meanwhile in the Pyrenees, the freezing temperatures meant sitting outside wasn't an option, prompting the sector to demand a rethink of the 30% cap on customer numbers.

Anselm Angrill, a restaurant owner in the tiny village of Ogern, also explained that it will be very difficult for his business to survive as long as the travel restrictions at weekends remain in place.

Shoppers turned away

Shopping malls remain closed, but that message hadn't got through to the many bargain hunters who turned up at the Fira Shopping Mall in the southern city of Reus on Monday morning.

As security let the eager shoppers down gently, the mall's manager Mayte Forján expressed her unhappiness at the ongoing disparity between high street shops and shopping centers.

"We have worked really hard on all the protocols and possible measures; we are a safe space like any other," Forján said, keen to point out that it wasn't just big chains who had premises in malls, but smaller businesses too.

Challenges remain for movie theaters and gyms

Gyms across Catalonia opened their doors once again, but with capacity limited to 30% indoors, for many, like Ramon Urgell of DIR clubs, "the business is not profitable."

Most cinemas are not expected to take advantage of being allowed to reopen until later in the week, according to Camilo Tarrazón, head of the Association of Catalan Cinemas.

Mondays are generally a quiet day for movie theaters but Tarrazón says several challenges will remain even at weekends. As well as the limits on capacity, there has been a lack of new releases, while he's disappointed that weekend travel restrictions haven't been eased, given that many cinemas he represents "serve more than one municipality."

Change in atmosphere

And will the reopening of bars and restaurants have a positive knock-on effect for high street retailers? Magda Ribot, who owns a clothing store in Tarragona, says she noticed a big change in the atmosphere on the streets, but no surge in sales yet. "Maybe they are all in the bar," she quipped.

Uncertain Christmas season

After a year of economic turmoil, many businesses look forward to the Christmas season with a mix of hope and uncertainty, already offering bigger discounts than normal and strengthening their online presence.

Online shopping has seen a boom during the pandemic, increasing from 15% to 22% of total sales—that is, growing as much in 8 months as in the previous 10 years.