Expats slam terrace service charges

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WITH the glorious weather that we have in Spain, it makes sense that people wish to sit outside of the bars and restaurants, taking advantage of the terraces.

But when this means that they must pay extra for the service they are not so keen.

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A very irritated Irene Stokes, 58, from Formentera, contacted Euro Weekly News saying she went to a British-owned bar in Ciudad Quesada, and was informed that she would be charged extra for terrace service.

She claimed that she had been meeting friends from the town, who selected a table on the terrace while she entered the bar and ordered the drinks.

She paid for them and began to walk out to join her friends when the barmaid called her back saying “There will be a charge of €1 for the waiter to bring the drinks to your table.”

Irene at first thought that she had misheard, but it was confirmed for a second time that “terrace service” carried a surcharge of €1.

“I was gob-smacked! I have been in Spain for 8 years and never been charged extra to enjoy my drink outdoors. Surely it is understandable that people will want to sit outside.” Irene exclaimed, adding that “We had intended to order food, but drank our drinks and went elsewhere after that. What a cheek!”

EWN spoke to several other expats to discover their feelings about being charged for service outside.

Shop Assistant, Linda George, from Torrevieja, said that she is not aware of ever being charged extra for drinks being served outside. “My husband I nearly always choose a table outside, even in the winter, as it is mild enough to sit out all year round. I know that they charge more along the seafront walk in Torrevieja, but you expect that because it is a prime spot with gorgeous views. However, I would certainly begrudge paying more elsewhere.”

Retired Accountant, Mike Lloyd, from San Luis, said that “I don’t think that it is fair to charge extra to people who chose to make use of the terraces. If a bar didn’t have a terrace than customers would probably just go elsewhere for a drink, as part of the attraction of living in Spain is the outdoor lifestyle. But to be charged for the privilege is just not on!”

Meanwhile Sales Representative, Claire South, 34, from Ciudad Quesada, said that “I remember going to a bar in Torrevieja and being charged extra for terrace service once. I was with some friends and one of them asked the waitress why there was an additional charge on the bill. She said that they get charged extra rental costs for placing tables out on the terrace, so have to charge people more for using them.

“We all thought that was a bad management decision” adding that “If you have higher costs than you have to work a bit harder to attract customers and sell more, not penalize them.”

It seems those bars that do choose to charge extra for terrace service are in a minority, and many bar owners are of the same opinion as the expats interviewed.

Proprietor of the Black Bull in Torremendo, Tracy, said that they don’t normally offer table service during the daytime, as there is only one member of staff working and it would mean them frequently leaving the bar unattended.

However, during busier periods, if a customer chooses to order food or drinks outside they will be served at their table, at no extra cost.

Tracy said that “I have never in my 3 years in Spain heard of anyone being charged for terrace service, kind of crazy if you ask me! If you want to tip for service then that should be up to the customer, not expected!”

Like it or not, bars and restaurants are completely within their rights to charge whatever prices they want, and it is then down to the consumer whether they are prepared to pay it or not.

According to public opinion, it seems that in many cases, if the restaurant or bar in question is in a prime location, either on a golf course or with sea views for example, then customers expect to pay a higher price to use the terrace, either with inflated prices or an additional surcharge, and are happy to do so.

However where this is not the case they begrudge paying for terrace service, especially if they were not aware of it when they ordered drinks. Either way, it is a legal requirement for licenced premises to display a current price list, which should be clearly visible to customers and state that there will be an additional charge for drinks served on the terrace.

It is also a legal requirement that every business in Spain has a complaints form or book ‘Libro de Reclamaciones’, so if customers are not happy or feel that they have been badly treated by an establishment then this can be documented, and will more than likely be inspected by the Guardia Civil at some point.

By Heidi Wardman
[email protected]


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