OWNERS and employees from bars, shops and restaurant’s across Marbella’s Old Town joined forces yesterday in a peaceful protest.
Business owners and staff gathered together in the famous Orange Square asking the City Council for direct ‘real and urgent’ aid to face the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and avoid ‘the catastrophe of closure’.
Wearing masks and all black clothing, demonstrators held posters reading ‘RIP Commercio Marbella’ and clapped and cheered outside the Council Office.
They say that they have received nothing in eight months from the Marbella Council by way of financial support and that a number of businesses have been forced as the tourist industry came to halt amidst the pandemic.
In March and April there was talk of an economic reactivation plan with a budget of €140 million, but those organising the protest say that they have not heard of a single business receiving any money at all.
Italian expat Emanuele Crisci, who runs Restaurante Tartufo in the Old Town with wife Hollie Shaw, told Olive Press that impact of COVID-19 has had a devastating affect on hundreds of businesses.
He told Olive Press: “We are so reliant on tourists here, locals never come up to the Old Town. The rent is so expensive in the area and without any support from the council businesses are struggling to survive.”
Wife Holly, who gave birth to their second child five months ago, added: “As a business we have personally seen a 75 per cent decline but costs remain astronomical.
“The local government has allegedly withheld a large amount of funds from the local businesses to help with the economic covid crisis, which I think has been given by the EU.
“We believe almost all other councils in Spain have delivered funds already to their local businesses but it is true to say that no business has received any financial support.”
The campaign group, made up of business owners and staff from the Old Town, are pleading with the City Council to provide direct subsidies of at least €3,000 euros per business to assist them with rental payments.
Organiser and spokesman Pablo Domínguez said: “Other councils in Spain, like Mijas City Council, have been helping local businesses since March with subsidies of between €3,000 and €6,000 euros per business but we have received nothing.
“The Council here are now taking about using €700,000 to put up Christmas lights that no one will see. We want to see that money go to local businesses instead so that we don’t have to close. Without support no businesses will be here next year.”
“We are not thinking about decorating our businesses, but about how we pay our rent during the winter months.”
Hundreds of hospitality staff and bosses united in the square demand from the government team measures to protect small businesses in Marbella.
“It is beyond urgent,” said Gordon Loughnane. “Every day another business is closing and no one is helping us. We’re here to make sure that changes. We can only hope the Council will listen.”