Bar and restaurant closures will 'destroy the engine' of Catalan economy, say critics

Restaurant Guild claims two-week shutdown to curb Covid spread will 'sink Barcelona'

Diners in a Manresa restaurant, October 14, 2020 (by Mar Martí)
Diners in a Manresa restaurant, October 14, 2020 (by Mar Martí) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 14, 2020 07:40 PM

The announcement that bars, cafes and restaurants will have to close for two weeks, except for takeout and delivery services, has not been welcomed by the hospitality sector.

On Wednesday, the Restaurant Guild (Gremi de Restauració) reacted to the government's new measures by claiming that the closure of bars and restaurants for fifteen days will "sink Barcelona" and "destroy the engine" of the Catalan economy.

Following what he described as a "tense" meeting with the Catalan executive, the guild's director general Roger Pallarols urged politicians to look for an alternative.

"Before taking the drastic measure to close restaurants, a measure that further harms the economic viability of thousands of families, and before sinking the city of Barcelona with a measure of this nature, alternatives have to be found."

Pallarols said that the government's decision is "inappropriate" and legally "very questionable."

The government plans are subject to approval from the Catalan High Court (TSJC) and Pallarols stated that the guild will appeal the decision if it does get the go-ahead from the court.

Local associations representing restaurants in many Catalan towns and cities including Girona, Tarragona and Lleida also voiced serious concerns at the authorities' plans.

"More gradual" measures

The two largest employers' associations in Catalonia – Foment and Pimec – both came out against the new measures.

Josep González, head of Pimec, told the Catalan News Agency that the measures ought to be "more gradual" in order to avoid "severe consequences" for the sector.

The CCOO trade union, meanwhile, said that if the shutdown is necessary, bars are entitled to due compensation.

Opposition parties critical

The leader of Ciudadanos in the Catalan parliament, criticized the government for leaving bars and restaurants "in the lurch" by announcing what he called "improvised measures with no Plan B."

Carlos Carrizosa posted a video on Twitter to send a message of support to the hospitality and catering sector. "We will not abandon them and we will work so that they have help and certainties to guarantee their future," he said.

The People's Party described the closure of bars and restaurants as "disproportionate." Spokesperson Santi Rodríguez said the move will be the end of many small and medium-sized enterprises, and asked for establishments to at least open to 30% of the capacity.

He pointed out that Madrid, where a regional state of alarm is in force, still has bars and restaurants opening to 50% capacity.

On the other hand, Barcelona mayor, Ada Colau, of the left-wing Barcelona En Comú, welcomed the government's actions.

While acknowledging that the closures were a "drastic" measure, she said the time had come to act, but called for specific details on the aid measures for the sector in the form of direct funding and rent reductions to be published as soon as possible.

Financial support 

The Government has said it will amend the civil code to in order to provide help towards the rents of establishments that have to close. Spokesperson Meritxell Budó confirmed they will provide direct aid to bars and restaurants that are forced to close for 15 days, with an initial endowment of €40m.

According to acting president, Pere Aragonès, the affected companies will also be able to avail of extraordinary loans of upwards of €12,000 to cover short-term requirements.