HUNDREDS of bars across Benidorm have stuck ‘to lease’ signs on their window-fronts in protest of de-escalation from Europe’s strictest coronavirus lockdown.
The Cobreca-Abreca associations – which represents 150 Benidorm establishments – has released a video showing the ‘Se Traspasa’ signs along with criticism of ‘inadequate’ regulations from Spain’s central government.
An accompanying statement says the tourism-dependent sector feels ‘completely abandoned’ and adds that many hospitality businesses in Benidorm and across Spain have joined the initiative.
“This year, and 2021, will be the most challenging in the history of the hospitality industry,” Abreca president, Pablo Gonzalez, says in the video.
Gonzalez calls for a ‘sustainable’ solution to the crisis – particularly with regards to Spain’s temporary layoff mechanism, the ERTE.
It allows workers across Spain to access unemployment benefits, but if businesses fire any staff within six months of removing them from an ERTE they will have to pay back every cent of financial assistance from the government.
Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s left-wing Minister of Labour, has revised the rules to allow bars and restaurants to open up 50% of their outdoor terrace areas when a region passes to ‘phase 1’ of de-escalation – the Valencian Community has requested to enter this phase on Monday, May 11.
Previously the government only allowed 30%.
She has also listened to complaints brought up during a teleconference with business associations last Monday, allowing bar and restaurant owners to progressively remove staff from an ERTE as incomes improve over the coming months.
However, Diaz still has plans to maintain the ERTE mechanism only until June 30 – meaning bars and restaurants will have to employ all their staff and be unable to fire them without significant losses.
This is not good enough for the Cobreca-Abreca associations behind the protest.
“We do not expect international tourists until at least October […] and while we do not have sufficient customers our bars and restaurants will not be able to open,” Javier del Castilla, president of Abreca, said.
“It will be very difficult for us to move forward because we are an area that works by pulling customers and tourists.”
He added the ‘For Lease’ signs were symbolic of the disaster the sector will face if the ERTE mechanism is not amended.
It comes as Hosteleria de España – a businesses association representing 330,000 bars and restaurants across Spain, which is not part of the Se Trespasa protest – has asked the Ministry of Work to allow ERTEs to continue until 2021.
The crucial association has also asked for a moratorium on rents to help bars and restaurants stay afloat.
British bars in Benidorm
Harry Shorrock, who worked at the World Famous Black Chicken Karaoke Bar and terrace in Benidorm, said the bar was ‘not involved’ in the protest.
“It’s a few chains of bars owned by mainly Spanish that have put the ‘Trespasa’ signs up in protest,” he told the Olive Press.
“But I can see a lot of cheap leases coming on the market for sale and some British owners and some staff moving back to the UK as well as other nationalities, because they can’t afford to keep going.
“Bars like the Black Chicken will survive, but many smaller bars unfortunately won’t – although I hope they do.
“Benidorm bars and restaurants rely on tourism as their main income. Most cannot survive on locals alone and this is the reason for the ‘Se Trespasa’ in bar and restaurants windows: to try and get the government to ease restrictions sooner rather than later.”
Faced with mounting pressure, why is Yolanda Diaz sticking to her guns for now?
The labour law specialist and member of the United Left party, Diaz is committed to keeping unemployment down despite significant state spending.
The Spanish press and commentators in particular have attacked Diaz’s Twitter posts celebrating the ‘5,197,451’ people who received financial benefits from the state in April.
She called it a ‘record for social protection in our country’.
In further posts, Diaz has celebrated the ‘slight increase’ in unemployment, which remains below levels seen during the financial crash.
Yesterday Diaz was brought before Spain’s Senate where opposition Partido Popular senator Ana Isabel Alós questioned Diaz on extension of the ERTE mechanism until the end of the year.
Diaz berated the PP for their record of ‘massive unemployment’ during the financial crisis, saying their party stood for ‘chucking people out onto the streets’.
She added that ‘it would make no sense to deploy the ERTE mechanism only to give them up with the de-escalation of the lockdown’.
She said this week was ‘key’ and that her department would reply to the complaints by the weekend.
It comes as leading radio commentator, COPE’s Carlos Herrera, criticised Diaz’s boasting on Wednesday.
He said: “In the Podemos minds of these politicians, they do not see the drama of families across Span and the tragic situation in which the State is heading.
“They celebrate the giving of alms to people affected by a pandemic that her party helped propagate with their passivity.
“The decisions of the Council of Ministers are Diaz’s responsibility as well.
“It is as if she is allowing people to break their legs and then marvelling at the large number of crutches she has given them to keep on walking.”