By Isha Sesay • 12 January 2020 • 12:01
FOR the millions of people who live in Spain and the countless number of tourists who choose the Mediterranean destination to spend a blissful vacation, a visit to one of the country’s bars is a popular activity – or should one say, it once was.
Spain’s bars, embedded into Spanish culture as a haunt to enjoy one’s favourite tipple, a coffee or even a light bite, have been an important feature on the nation’s streets, coastal fronts and towns, where locals come together to meet, and for tourists to spend their money. However, an alarming statistic has been released by Atlas Agencia, which indicates that 20,000 have closed just in the last decade.
Through an investigative study, the agency found that on average 2,400 bars close their doors every year, and in 2020 hundreds more are expected to disappear. The shocking figures are attributed largely to the ‘depopulation’ in many provinces in Spain, meaning fewer and fewer customers.
In addition, the study showed that a large proportion of the bars that closed were due to an ageing population as well as owners retiring with less people in the market willing to take over the premises for the same purposes.
Running a bar in Spain is an attractive option but certainly not an easy feat for Spaniards or the thousands of expats who make the leap to start up their own business across the country. No other business can seem more fruitful than owning a bar, but the pitfalls can be plentiful with bars reaching varying degrees of success. As well as the many legalities involved under strict Spanish regulations, running costs and workers’ rights can take its toll on profits.
Jose Robles, who owns a bar in Mallorca’s Marratxi said: “I have been running my business for 12 years and this year we will close. It was once a popular place for local residents to come and meet where everyone knew one another. We were all like family. However, much has changed in the last year and many of my customers have moved away.”
Raquel Díaz, who runs a bar in Valladolid said: “I have worked in this industry all of my life and in Castilla y León, there is half the amount of customers than 10 years ago. In Montealegre de Campos, many bars have closed their doors as the area is desolate.” She added: “Most people like to stay at home now, where you lose contact with your neighbours which is a shame. A bar is more than a just beers and coffees – it’s a way of life and sometimes this all that your customers have.”
Emilio Gallego, the General Secretary of Hospitality in Spain stated last year that the: “The real estate bubble has meant a repositioning of inhabitants. New neighbourhoods are attracting citizens, leading to other areas to depopulate where many small businesses then close.” He makes a stark warning to bar owners, stating: “Consumer habits are changing and if bars do not change to attract new audiences, they will have a very dark future.”
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