Spanish bar, restaurant and nightclub owners gathered in central Madrid demanding help from the government as over half-a-million jobs are now at risk.
Nightclubs are closed in Madrid and the usually bustling restaurants and bars are back to only being allowed to open at a reduced capacity to stem a rebound in COVID-19 cases in a country that has a strong tradition of eating out.
Pepa Munoz, owner and chef of “El Quenco de Pepa” restaurant in Madrid said: “With the capacity, they have assigned, taking steps backwards, this is an impossible situation. We are hanging on thanks to terraces, but their days are numbered,” she said, dreading the cold winter days. Serving just about half her usual number of meals, Pepa fears for the future of her 34 employees and their families who rely on their spouses income to support them.
With even fewer clients and barely any tourists, these businesses are bracing for an even tougher autumn and winter. Under normal circumstances, the summer period is when business owners save cash for the winter but this year this has not happened due to the lockdown.
“Ministers, politicians, more help and less restrictions,” one banner read, while another said: “Six months closed. Help!”. The main hospitality business lobby has warned 85,000 businesses were in jeopardy this year. We are not earning any money at the business but we are still paying (taxes). We can only survive for a short time, maybe two or three months, I don’t think we could last longer,” said Jose Manuel del Moral, who works at his husband’s drinks bar “Zarpa” in Madrid.
The government has rolled out some plans to help businesses but has so far ruled out a cut to value-added tax, IVA.
Spain, which before the pandemic had the highest density of bars in the world with one for every 175 residents, according to a study by Nielsen consultancy, has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus and on Monday became the first Western European country to pass 500,000 cases. Spain’s economy shrank a record 18.5% in April-June, the sharpest drop among European Union member states.
Due to outbreaks, many establishments have had to close again. Among them, restaurants, bars and discos. The hospitality sector is one of the most affected by this crisis and yesterday they protested throughout the country to ask for a rescue plan to reverse the bleeding of the sector: the Hospitality industry predicts that without aid by the end of the year 85,000 companies and 650,000 jobs will have disappeared. There are rumours of a general strike around September the 22nd where thousands will protest against the lack of support from the government. As soon as this is confirmed and verified a full report will be published.