Coffee shop squatters: digital nomads no longer welcome

Teleworkers banned

Teleworkers banned Photo: Shutterstock / GaudiLab

It started in Barcelona then moved to Valencia, Spain’s coffee shops are angry with the explosion of digital nomads, “They pay for a coffee and occupy a table for eight hours” said one report.

The situation has become increasingly common in recent years: someone sits down in a café, orders a coffee, opens his or her laptop and spends the whole morning teleworking without consuming anything else.

The advent of remote working has made it possible for both freelancers and employees to work from anywhere. This has led to workers from northern Europe taking advantage of Spain’s digital nomad visa to move to warmer climes.

Teleworking banned

As reported in La Vanguardia, coffee shops now have a problem, with teleworkers occupying tables for hours all for the price of one cup of coffee. Some coffee shops in Valencia and Barcelona have now banned teleworking for their customers, at least during peak hours.

In Barcelona, the situation has become unsustainable for the city’s hospitality sector. Raquel Llanes, manager of Departure Café, in the heart of Barcelona’s Raval, explained to Barcelona Secreta that the situation had got out of control: “We have had customers who have ordered an espresso and sat for eight hours, people who have asked us to turn down the music so they can have meetings, customers who took out their tupperware to eat”.

Faced with this abuse of the hospitality, bar and café owners have begun to impose restrictions. In Valencia, some establishments have posted signs on tables indicating that teleworking is prohibited between 8am and midday. The measure aims to prevent customers from occupying a table during the busiest times of the day when customers come for breakfast and find all the tables occupied.

WiFi turned off

Others have opted for less friendly, but equally effective systems: turning off the WiFi network of the premises during peak hours. “The owner has removed the Wi-Fi to avoid precisely these situations. People sat down and didn’t leave”, says a worker at one of the cafés in the report by La Vanguardia.

“This is not a library, it’s a coffee shop”, said Raquel Llanes in Barcelona, adding that, “since we banned teleworking we have improved our numbers and also the atmosphere in our coffee shop. As our sign says, ‘We don’t have laptops here, but we do have good coffee'”.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.


    • Carl Boggs

      21 May 2024 • 16:19

      I am a digital nomad. First, digital nomads are actually very few in southern Spain, they seek cheap places to setup, and Andalucia is no longer the cheap location as it was 10+yrs ago. There are FAR LESS EXPENSIVE places with decent wifi, cheap beer and nightlife now. Mexico, Thailand, Tunisia, Egypt, Georgia (not the state), and more. Second, every DN I know that uses cafes to work makes sure to buy at least one drink per hour, and we always leave a good tip. That way we will be welcome back. But all this hoopla the Junta makes about attracting DNs is a joke, just a way to drain off EU funds to local contractors. These layabouts that sit in the cafes all day without hourly purchases are more likely Spanish, collecting benefits, and working on the internet for black money.

      • John McLean

        22 May 2024 • 08:19

        Even buying one coffee an hour is taking the mickey

        • Ari

          22 May 2024 • 16:48

          Maybe you have not bought a coffee in Malaga City recently. You could easily spend €16 on 4 coffees. Buying €16 worth of coffee to use internet for 4 hrs sounds more than fair to me.

          • Paul Needham

            31 May 2024 • 11:12

            Don’t go to Starbucks then. Local cafes are never 4euros. They would go out of business

        • Racey Amero

          22 May 2024 • 16:56

          Digital nomads drink Redbull, not coffee.

    • Lisa Olesen

      22 May 2024 • 23:33

      It is absolutely not ok. Bar owners are struggling hard enough. To have internet at your home is not that expensive. Only a few days ago I tried to buy a coffee at my normal cafe, but 4-5 tables was occupied by people “working”!

    • Linda Walker

      23 May 2024 • 04:17

      Anyway it is good news, I have seen this happen everywhere and the customers who want a coffee to drink and enjoy are struggling for a table while these hoggers sit there with no drink in sight. So this can only be good news for all coffee lovers. This should apply to all coffee shops and bars, keep the non payers away.

    • Harry

      25 May 2024 • 06:15

      Having owned a bar in the Canary Islands I can vouch for the same thing happening during televised football . They will wander in take the best view of the TV’s and invest in a small beer which they will nurse for 2 hours . I ended up not showing football and the was very little difference in my takings .

    Comments are closed.