Other regions may now face rebellions from their hostelry sectors re-opening in defiance of regional measures
Differences in approach among regional governments as the third wave subsides and outdoor terraces begin to re-open
One of the worst-hit sectors of the Spanish economy since the coronavirus pandemic reached Europe a year ago has without doubt been that of hospitality, with the forced closure of bars and restaurants being one of the measures most readily adopted by the national government during the first wave of infection and by regional governments during the second and third waves.
In most regions of Spain these establishments are currently still closed or severely limited in terms of the services they are allowed to offer and the number of customers allowed on the premises (and on outdoor terraces) at any one time, and in consequence a number of protests have been held at both national and regional level. But a ruling issued this week by the High Court of Justice in the Basque Country, in the north of the country, has raised hopes among those involved in the sector that there may now be a legal precedent for them to defy regional government orders and open their doors, or at least their outdoor areas.
The Basque Country ruling effectively allows bars and restaurants to re-open in the region even in the “red zones” where the rate of infection is currently highest, and José Luis Yzuel of the Hostelería de España association is now encouraging owners in other parts of the country to take their grievances to court as a result and to defy the national and regional governments.
At the same time, Luis Ángel Garrido, the presiding judge in the Basque High Court, posted “No More Lockdown” (on his WhatsApp profile!
Meanwhile, the attitudes of the regional governments vary considerably. In the Region of Murcia, for example, it has already been announced that as Covid incidence rates continue to fall outdoor terraces are now allowed to open in 20 of the 45 municipalities, and the number is almost certain to increase next week.
On the other hand, the government of the Balearics announced on Wednesday that complete closure will be maintained for at least another fortnight as efforts to curb the spread of the virus continue in Mallorca, Ibiza and Formentera, while indoor areas will remain closed to customers in Menorca. Similarly, in the Comunidad Valenciana, which currently has the highest Covid incidence rate among the 17 regions of Spain, any relaxation of the current restrictions has been put back to at least the beginning of March, according to regional president Ximo Puig.
A less strict approach is currently favoured in Extremadura, where the government has announced that hostelries will be allowed to open as of this Friday from 7.00 to 18.00 with limits on customer numbers, and a similar relaxation of the rules is in the offing in Madrid, where more flexibility in opening times is likely to be offered to the sector and the start of the night-time curfew is to be put back to 23.00.
Meanwhile, in the Basque Country it’s definitely a case of service with a smile, as bar staff and customers renew their acquaintances after the forced break!