20 May, 2020 @ 19:11
3 mins read

Malaga’s big restaurants welcome Phase 1 of coronavirus exit plan, but expat bars with tiny terraces on Spain’s Costa del Sol say it’s ‘just not viable’ to open


THE Costa del Sol’s larger restaurants have welcomed Malaga’s entrance into Phase 1, while smaller business-owners with tiny terraces are more gloomy.

A number of those in the coast’s hospitality sector told this newspaper they were ‘looking forward’ to getting back and up and running.

However others questioned the Government’s measures to ease Spain’s coronavirus lockdown, saying that opening their doors was simply ‘not viable’.

It comes as the Association of Hoteliers of Malaga (Mahos) today launched a campaign calling for ‘maximum responsibility’ from establishments and their guests.

KNOCKING EM BACK: Pals enjoy a beer on an Estepona terrace on Monday, as Malaga entered Phase 1

The ‘I fulfill, you fulfill’ campaign has been set up to remind restaurateurs and revellers alike to use ‘common sense’ and that both groups need to shoulder ‘responsibility’.

The Official College of Veterinarians of Malaga has backed the campaign, which asks customers to do their bit by maintaining social distancing, while businesses should be adhering to health and safety procedures.

From Monday this week Malaga’s terraces have been allowed to open for business once again.


Boss of Olivia’s La Cala, Elliott Wright, was one of those who opened up on Monday and already has a month full of events pencilled in for June.

He told the Olive Press: “We opened on Monday, it was very good, there was a nice atmosphere.

“Our menus are all stood up on stands so you don’t have to touch them, we have hand sanitiser at all the entrances and exits and we are temperature testing people when they come in.

Elliott Wright
EXCITED: Olivia’s La Cala boss Elliott Wright is looking forward to June after opening up on Monday

“We have our tables at least two metres apart and we have quite a big terrace with 70 chairs.”

The well-known expat restaurant even has a DJ performing on the terrace this Friday and is doing half price cocktails.

“I think things are picking up,” Wright added, “People go out when they know they are safe.”

However, further down the coast in Calahonda, popular expat cafe Espresso Bar, which sits on the main precinct, will not open until June, its owner revealed.

“How do you pay a 100% bill on a 50% income?” Deborah Marks, from Dublin, who with her partner, has been at the helm for a year, said to the Olive Press.

Like many restaurateurs and landlords with small terraces, the expat of seven years feels she has been dealt a bad hand compared to those with bigger outdoor spaces.

As per Phase 1 of Spain’s coronavirus deescalation plan, bars, cafes and restaurants can only open their terraces at 50% capacity – initial planning had suggested just 30% until Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez amended the plan.

Marks, who employs three staff, said: “It’s good if you have a 120 or 80-seat restaurant with a big terrace, but not for the likes of us.

“Normally I can sit 13 people outside, but they have to be two metres apart, so it’s just not viable with four tables.

“Say if you put one table out, there has to be two metres between people when they are sat down at tables.

“I think the government should be helping us out with our bills more if they are keeping us closed.

“Granted they have jobs to do, but they are pulling people up on stupid stuff, I know people who were fined €600 for having their table overlapping on another terrace.

“I could have done take away service but how would I get my name out there like pizza places and Chinese takeaways.

“People aren’t eating out yet, I think people are just becoming comfortable again and thinking ‘we’ll go out for a drink.’”

Meanwhile one Irish pub-owner on the Costa del Sol echoed Marks’ concerns about the financial difficulties for small hospitality businesses.

The expat, who preferred to remain anonymous said it was not viable for him to open his doors until June 15, despite the wide expectation that Malaga will enter Phase 2 by June 1.

Feelings up and down the coast are mixed however, with many longstanding restaurants already open or set to open soon.

The La Sala Group will once again open the doors of its flagship site La Sala Banus on May 22, making use of the restaurant’s large terrace.

Like Olivia’s, the celeb favourite will be operating temperature screening of its guests, as well as staff.

It will also be using ‘antivirus mats’ at doorways, as well as ‘single-dose cleaning wipes’, gloves and masks, which are to become obligatory from tomorrow.

A spokesperson said: “We are thrilled to announce that we will be re-opening our doors to welcome you back to La Sala from Friday 22nd May.

“Initially we will open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12pm – 2am with a reduced 50% capacity on our outside terrace, allowing plenty of social distancing between tables.”

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