'We want to work': 1,000 business owners protest against restaurant closures

Industry bodies and employers' associations demand government aid at Barcelona demonstration

Protests in Barcelona's Plaça Sant Jaume against closure of bars and restaurants, October 16, 2020 (by Marta Casado Pla)
Protests in Barcelona's Plaça Sant Jaume against closure of bars and restaurants, October 16, 2020 (by Marta Casado Pla) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 16, 2020 05:38 PM

"We want to work" was the rallying cry as around one thousand restaurant, shop and cafe owners gathered in Barcelona's Plaça Sant Jaume to protest against the government's latest measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

With bars, cafes and restaurants facing a two-week closure except for takeout or delivery, and shop capacity limited to 30%, there was palpable anger among the crowd, with eggs and plates thrown at both government and council headquarters.

The Catalan executive has promised funds of €40m for businesses affected, but this won't be enough to cover losses, according to groups such as the Restaurant Guild, Barcelona Commerce, and employers' organizations Foment and Pimec.

During the protest, which began at around midday on Friday, the crowds chanted slogans such as "Restaurants are not the problem" and "Government, resign!", while holding up placards and banners with messages like "Young people have the right to enjoy themselves safely" and "You are killing our bars and, with them, our dreams."

Industry figures outraged

Speaking at the rally, Roger Pallarols of the Restaurant Guild expressed "outrage" within the sector and the government's decision and called for more "reasonable" measures, lamenting the fact that the 9,000 restaurateurs in Barcelona will lose income but still have outgoings. He expects 80,000 workers to face temporary unemployment.

The Secretary General of the employers' organization Pimec, Antoni Cañete, claimed the impact of the measures will be €780m. "The €40m announced represents 5.1% of the losses," he said.

With 210,000 workers directly affected and 810,000 indirectly, Cañete called on the government for direct aid, citing the situation in France, where €10,000 has been granted to establishments with less than twenty workers.

The Barcelona Hotel Guild showed its support for the restaurant sector and said the government's decision will also have an impact on the accommodation sector. In fact, hotels have already seen a drop in bookings and an avalanche of cancellations, according to Manel Casals, director general of the Barcelona Hotel Guild.

There was some tension between the police and protesters before the rally wound up at around 1.30pm.