By Tony Winterburn • 16 September 2020 • 18:50
The bar owners on Fuengirola port are demanding help from the town hall as trade drops to a standstill.
AFTER months of delays, phone calls, texts and WhatsApp messages the bar owners on the port have simply ‘had enough’ as one despirited expat put it. Since the lifting of the lockdown the port has not seen anywhere near the number of locals and tourists that normally visit the area. The fact that the UK still has the quarantine in place, of course, is not helping their cause but there is something else going on in the port, something much, much deeper and its been going on for a while now.
It is so bad that at least eight bars have already been abandoned in the last three months. Through personal experience, I can say that the local Spanish police have not exercised too much discretion with the venue owners. I have personally witnessed on at least 10 occasions where the police have suddenly appeared on their scooters and fined whichever bar they are closest too. The fines? Depends, sometimes it has been for staff not wearing masks – I was there one Sunday and a waitress came out on the terrace and for a second put her tray down to get change and she got a fine, well the bar did!
On other occasions, like a swat team raid, the Local Police handed out fines for playing music to bars that have been doing just that for the last 20 years. A bar owner from the port, again not wanting to give their names for fear of reprisals said: “My friends have lost about €50,000, they were doing sort of ok last year but this year lost money every day. They lost count of the fines they had and couldn’t pay any more so just left. They were told when they bought the bar it was ok to have music, but obviously it wasn’t.”
To put this all into context, I’m referring to background music, and maybe a TV that customers watch the sport on. At the meeting, which I shall get to in a minute, it was mentioned that the police have been randomly fining bars that do not have?? You guessed it – a music licence, not a live music one, one just to play background music, which totals almost €900 if you apply for TV and music together.
It is now understood that this has always been the case, you need that licence to play music. It would be extremely interesting to see how many bars in Fuengirola have actually even heard of it, never mind have one!
You may be wondering why this hasn’t all been reported correctly on before, well, now I can tell you. I have been with a group of owners personally to the second in command at the town hall and had a full-on meeting regarding this very subject. The meeting was jovial, to begin with then it got a bit tense and then I had to calmly lead everyone out. Such is the emotion, anger and frustration with the whole subject of the port – and its steady demise.
A petition, signed by over 90 per cent of the bar owners was handed into the mayor by her second in command, her ‘tourism chief’ who I have to say was very helpful and accommodating. The petition asked for signs to the port to be erected as there aren’t any to help tourists find the port in the first place.
Three weeks later, however, with no notice whatsoever, the mayor and a small entourage ‘toured’ the port on a Monday night declaring ‘how lovely’ the port was and ‘what a great place to visit.’ What she DIDN’T say was there was not a single soul there, it was completely dead – the port was a ghost town.
The first meeting of Fuengirola ports action group
The meeting, attended by around 46 bar owners and a few friends, was held at the popular Family Bar at 1.0 o’clock today. Notice I said 46, where were the other bar owners, the Spanish bar owners and more to the point why didn’t they bother to turn up?
As these things tend to do, it ran well over of course, but it was well worth it and now, at last, for the bar owners, something has been put into action. There was applause for the speakers, agreement, mainly, and above all, a sense of unity. They have formed a group now, they know what they want and they know where they are going. What you can do as locals is to support the bar owners in the port. Please go down and have a beer or a coffee, or maybe a snack, a meal, it will help them so much. Their costs are at least 10 times more than they are taking and many are now in a desperate position.
The Port Authority – or the lack of it!
Another ‘hot topic’ was the action taken by the port authority itself, or the lack of it, as one speaker put it. Apparently, the town said they, the bar owners, have to ask the PA whether they can have music or not. The PA says the town hall handle the music, it goes back and forward.
Racism and intimidation
The term racism and intimidation popped up a few times and was aimed squarely at the Local Police. It’s true to say that the bar owners think they are being victimised and treated unfairly by the police. Many have videos and photos of the police fining them while a few yards away another bar has music playing, but the police just ignore that and drive off. I can honestly and truthfully say I have witnessed that too over the years in the port – and so have many hundreds of people. Friends and tourists alike, a lot of ‘evidence’ still exists on Facebook of such things, or maybe after this is published it might ‘mysteriously’ dissappear!
There will be another meeting soon to report on actions taken so far, I am sworn to secrecy on the actual details but i can say it will ‘awaken the bear’ that is the town hall. TW
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