BRITISH bar and restaurant owners in Andalucia have been left fuming after being ‘sidelined’ in the new Christmas coronavirus plan.
Regional president Juanma Moreno revealed the two-stage plan last night, which will feature a different set of restrictions over two time periods, from December 12 to 17 and from December 18 to January 10.
But while shops will be able to open until 9pm from this Saturday, the hospitality industry will still be forced to close at 6pm.
“I think it’s crackers that all the shops can open until 9pm and the bars and restaurants shut at six,” British hotelier Alex Neate told the Olive Press today.
“Especially after we have all spent a fortune making our businesses compliant with COVID guidelines, with reduced tables, gel dispensers, masks, gloves etc… I’m really saddened.
“Our industry is actually working incredibly hard to make sure establishments are kept extra clean and COVID free.”
Neate, 55, opened the El Nido de Chorro hotel, next to the Caminito del Rey in inland Malaga, just two years ago, after building it from scratch.
“The first year was amazing and then this past year has been terrible,” the potter and artist by day added.
“I won’t re-open until the end of January as tourism is everything for us and right now nobody is here.
“But we will recover, this will end, people will come back and things will get better.”
If there is no significant COVID-19 rebound, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open from 8pm to 10:30pm in the second phase, starting on December 18 (but will have to remain closed from 6pm to 8pm).
For Jackie Quick-Rice, 60, owner of Jackie’s Bar in Fuengirola, that simply is not enough to recover the losses suffered this year.
“These measures are atrocious for us as a business, it’s a financial disaster,” the Scot, from near Glasgow, told the Olive Press.
“On Christmas Day for example customers will come for lunch then go home and not come back out, and on New Year’s I have a buffet and have sold 30 tickets but I will have to kick them out at 10:30pm.
“The curfew should also be extended on December 25 and we should have been allowed to stay open until 1:00am on at least New Year’s, that is what most bars were expecting, it’s what we needed in this financial climate.”
Jackie said Fuengirola faces becoming a ghost town ‘within six weeks’ due to the rapid closure of businesses.
“A lot of businesses are on their last legs, so many businesses are closing, it’s absolutely shocking,” she said.
Like many in the industry, Jackie believes bars and restaurants are being unfairly punished, while the 1:30am curfew extension will see people go to house parties instead of businesses like hers.
She added: “In the bars we can control how much they drink as well as the seating and the spacing.”
It comes as the Andalucia Horeca Federation called for the resignation of Junta president Moreno.
“The Andalucia hospitality industry is breaking all ties with the Junta for its mistreatment of the sector,” said the group, consisting of thousands of bar and restaurant owners.
“We demand the resignation of Juanma Moreno following the umpteenth abuse of a sector that only asks to be able to work.”
The federation said it will be organising protests.
“This sector employs more than a quarter of a million Andalucians and represents more than 7% of regional GDP,” the group said.
The industry can still provide take out until 9:30pm and send food out for delivery until 11:30pm, but business owners were expecting much more of a reprieve.
Moreno said last night his measures were intended to ‘open the tap a little more’ for bars and restaurants while avoiding people eating and/or drinking for long periods of time.
“That is when people drop their guard and there is a greater risk of contagion,” he said, an argument the Horeca Federation labelled ‘ridiculous’.