July 24, 2009

So the word on the streets (and in the papers) is that Barcelona's City Hall will prohibit any sort of promotional offers by bars (2x1, happy hours, free shot, etc.) since this allegedly encourages underage drinking and alcoholism. Last night, I passed by Raval bar Zelig, which offers happy hour beers for €1.50, and was surprised to find it was not, in fact, inundated with underage drinkers and alcoholics, but rather its typical mix of locals and foreigners.

And in this morning's papers I read that Mayor Hereu has ordered that the small grocers and carryout food places in Ciutat Vella (Raval, Barri Gotic, Born) must close from 12-7am. Apparently these places are magnets for crime and disorderly street noise.

What is going on here? Killing happy hours to curtail underage drinking? Maybe they should try enforcing ID checks by venues that sell alcohol. When was the last time you saw someone carded in Barcelona? As far as street crime and noise are concerned, is the solution shutting down all street commerce? Why don't we just impose curfews?

And what about the impact on local businesses? Don't bars have a right to market their services with promotions, particularly now at the deepest point in the recession? I know a lot of bars and restaurants whose business will drop without the promotions, and when revenue drops businesses tend to let employees go. As for the neighborhood grocers (typically owned by Pakistanis) trying to eke out a living ... I mean these guys are heroes ... where else are you going to buy a tomato at 1am? How about more street patrols by police? Couldn't the taxes on sales from 12am-7am pay for that?

I don't know what message City Hall wants to send to young people. (Let's face it, it's a generational conflict; abuelos are not kicking back mojitos for €3.50 or shopping for that 1am tomato, they want peace and quiet.) But I know what message City Hall IS sending: RUN, don't walk, to a much cooler city like Berlin, where you can still enjoy a bit of that "La Movida" freedom that used to characterize Barcelona and for which so many of us moved here.


July 24, 2009

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Killing The City, For What?

This story really fills me with despair, what the hell are those imbeciles in City Hall trying to achieve? We're in the worst depression for 30 years, most bars and clubs are struggling to survive on a week to week basis, with waiting staff losing their jobs at an alarming rate. City Hall keep saying they are trying to help businesses, so what do they do?... attack, penalise or shut down any venue that is trying to host live music & Djs... and now trying to prohibit 'happy hours' and 'drinks promotions', are they insane. Contrary to what they're saying BCN's clubs & bars are not full of 'underage drinkers' & 'alcoholics'... they prefer to drink outdoors, it's a lot cheaper. So what the hell do they think they can achieve from these restrictions? More taxes? Clubs and bars should have absolute freedom, to make whatever promotions they like... it's their survival, thats on the line. At this rate what is Barcelona going to be left with? nothing but streets of boarded up bars, while we tell our visitors "Yes, that used to be great spot about 6 months ago."

Of equal concern is the closing of the 'corner shops' and 'take-away food outlets', between midnight & 7am... "magnets for crime"? I'm sure that you're going to find a lot more Gangsters hanging out in City Hall, than you are in my local Spar... (like the ones building the brand new beachfront hotel, for instance). There are thousands of people in the Ciutat Vella, working late nights... why should we not be able to purchase food, and whatever else, whenever we like? This is a wholesale attack on our rights as consumers. But there's more to it than that.... for 'corner shop', read 'Pakistani-owned Business', as the vast majority of them are, particularly within Raval, Gotic & Born (where these restrictions are proposed), This is a basically a thinly disguised assault on the Pakistani community, easily Barcelona's hardest working racial minority... If this was brought before the E.U. department of Human Rights, I'm sure Barcelona would come out looking very badly indeed.

Also I don't understand, is how the Ajuntament de Barcelona, think that they can get away with this? This doesn't happen in other cities in Spain, you'll find plenty of "Happy Hours" in Madrid, in Granada they give you a free plate of food, every time you buy a beer, and have been doing that for hundreds of years. What next? is City Hall going to ban Tapas as a "drink promotion"?

Roger C more than 4 years ago

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