Spain’s smoking ban ‘unfair’ on poorer districts

ALICANTE – THE knock on effect of Spain introducing anti-smoking legislation is now emerging. With no smoking allowed inside bars and cafes and without a terrace on which customers could smoke, many small cafe bar owners have called for a change in legislation relaxing the rules over terrace licences.

Currently a terrace is not permissible where the pavement is less than four metres wide. In most older barrios in Alicante, and indeed many Spanish towns, the pavement width is well below these minimum requirements.

It also happens that these older areas tend to be less affluent, and so affected bar owners believe the current law unfairly impinges on the less well off.

Los Angeles in Alicante being an older such barrio where terraces are few and far between, and so the local population are disproportionately affected by the combination of anti-smoking and anti-terrace legislation.

“Change the Road Occupation Laws, Neither Inside Nor Outside. Say Where, Madam Mayor!” proclaims a banner strung across Calle Javea in the Los Angeles district.

“The City does not offer any help and now in the midst of crisis is when you most need it” complained the owner of the Bar Si o Si, Delia Sala, who added that if the dire situation continues “I’m going to give up my business.”

To make a striking visible protest, a pretend terrace with chairs and a table was set up on top of a van parked outside a bar in the barrio.

One bar owner said he had conveyed his displeasure to the Mayor of Alicante, Sonia Castedo, via Facebook, but as yet received an answer. “If we lived in San Vicente (a more prosperous and spacious neighbourhood) we would not have this problem. It’s not fair, you have to change the current rules. If they don’t, our businesses will be dead.”

Since the smoking ban has come into force on January 2 “Sales have fallen by more than half” said Antonio Sanchez, a bar owner in Calle Javea.

“In the morning we have lost about 25 clients who came every day for breakfast. We need to put tables outside to continue working. As restaurateurs we haven’t been given any consideration, they (the Ayuntamiento) do not bother to see the real problems of the city,” he said.

Further, the confusion usual which accompanies the interpretation of most Spanish laws was evidenced at first hand by the writer in Benidorm last week when two local policemen openly smoked inside a local bar in the Rincon area of the town.

They told the bar owner not to worry and said that they themselves did not know how to interpret the anti-smoking laws, and so (for the time being anyway) would not be enforcing them.

By Paul Deed


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