Catalonia announces €20m grant for nightlife sector
Late-night venues face closure again due to spread of Omicron variant
The Catalan government is to give €20m in direct aid to the nightlife sector to help businesses cope with the latest enforced closure, which was announced on Monday due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
Business and labor minister Roger Torrent said that it is the most significant financial package for the late-night economy introduced to date, and comes on top of the €40m already allocated to venues in one of the sectors hardest hit by restrictions throughout the pandemic.
"Catalonia is the territory in the state [Spain] that has given the most direct aid to the sectors affected by the restrictions," Torrent told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) on Wednesday.
"We've always said that even though we have to make those decisions [to close], we don't want to leave anyone behind. None of the sectors affected should be left on their own."
The business minister acknowledged that taking steps to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 "is bad news" for the nightlife industry. "It would probably have been easier not to bring in new measures but the situation would have gotten a lot worse," he added.
The exact conditions of the grant will be confirmed after talks between Torrent and industry representatives. This week they will meet to finalize the details around when installments will be delivered and the maximum amount per application.
Torrent said his department had wanted to act "quickly" after the latest restrictions were announced.
He also pointed out that the financial aid provided by the Catalan government to deal with the effects of the pandemic was three times higher that of other autonomous communities: €182 per person in Catalonia compared to an average of €60 in Spain as a whole.
From Thursday at midnight for at least 15 days, there will be a 10-person limit on gatherings, a 1am to 6am curfew, the nightlife sector will shut and there will be capacity limits: 50% in indoor seating areas of restaurants and 70% in gyms, cultural venues, and stores, regardless of whether they are deemed essential or not.
The 10-person cap and curfew, which would only affect municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants and an incidence rate of 250 cases per 100,000 people, must be greenlighted by the High Court. The other measures do not require approval from the judiciary as they do not infringe upon fundamental rights.
Catalan president Pere Aragonès acknowledged that the new Covid-19 restrictions are "hard," but, he told the press on Tuesday, they are still necessary and should be extended to the rest of Spain ahead of the Christmas holidays.