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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The South refuses to open its terraces

Terrace of El Cine in Los Cristianos in other times

For entrepreneurs, the government's proposal to allow only 50% of the restaurant business space is "a trap and a collective suicide"

"The Government's proposal to reopen restaurant business with these restrictions, now 50% capacity on the terraces, is a trap and a collective suicide," says Carlos Magdalena, owner of Grupo El Cine and member of the association of businessmen and merchants of Los Cristianos. Many other businesses thought the same, as is the case of El Escondite, also in Los Cristianos. "In the restaurant business in general and in the case of Grupo El Cine in particular with three different types of restaurant business, we will not be able to adapt to the de-escalation criteria proposed by the Government," says Magdalena.

"In the case of El Cine Restaurant and El Teatro del Puerto - the Los Cristianos port cafeteria - restaurant businesses where we have terraces, it will not be viable to open with 50% of our table capacity, therefore we will not open under these conditions, at least during this month," says the businessman. He insists that "this proposal is a real trap, since the Government passes the buck and the resolution of the problem and health crisis to self-employed, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. This is a State problem and it is the State that has than fix it," he says.

“There is not yet a legal formula that we know of that allows us to de-escalate ERTE (furloughed) personnel gradually. If we opened on Monday, we could not restart of all our staff at the same time and there is still no legal tool to help us incorporate staff as we need tthem, that is, remove three from ERTE and then, for example, three others later. That is the clarity that we must demand from the Government, ”says Carlos Magdalena.

He says, "if airplanes, for example, are required to carry only a third of their capacity, the cost of the empty seats will surely be reflected in the cost of the tickets they do sell, but we cannot pass on this extra cost to our clients or increase the prices of our menus, with the economic crisis in which affects people, both Canary Islanders and visitors alike ”.

“It would be suicidal to encourage the entire restaurant sector to look for solutions to open up. On the contrary, I do not advise any restaurateur to commit suicide,” he says.

Juan Luis Hernández, owner of the HH bar-brewery in Costa Adeje, said "the government's opening plan will lead us to absolute closure, which is not feasible," after learning the conditions for reopening the restaurant sector next Monday. The change from 30% to 50% of capacity on terraces, he feels "is more reasonable", although, with a generally English clientele, he points out that "until tourism returns, profitability will be almost nil".

Already anticipating other security measures once the interior of the premises and the bar could be reopened, the owner of the HH, explained that "even if we put screens, if a couple hold hands or kiss what do we do? The hygiene and safety plan imposed on us is not at all clear. I have contacted Occupational Risks and the disinfection company to assess the measures to be taken, but there is no certainty for the short or medium term. All of this is an additional expense and there are many businesses that cannot bear it. From our group, almost 50% of the associates will not open ”.

“We are all in the same boat and no self-employed person wants to fire anyone, especially in these circumstances, but very difficult times are coming and Europe is not predicting anything good, not even in Germany, which has already recommended that they not travel to Spain. We have to prepare for serious changes in social, political and economic life.

Javier Velázquez, owner of the El Escondite restaurant, which has a large terrace on the Jorge Ledesma promenade, right next to the site where the Julián José building collapsed four years ago, explained that “at 50% of the terrace capacity, at least it will allow me to remove one worker from the ERTE (furlough), and although in reality it is not very profitable, there will be a reason to start, we cannot be closed for so long, ” he said. 

For now, waiting to open on Monday, with at least three of the seven tables that he has on the terrace, he already has the organization chart for the known de-escalation phases. "From June 4, general cleaning for two days, then fumigation for insects (two days closed) and finally cleaning again and fumigation with ozone or whatever they advise me", adding to all this process “masks, gels, for after using the bathroom and the tables; QR code on each table for the client to see the menu, which is disinfected after each use; distribution of the tables inside and the terrace with dividers and all that without using the bar”, which in summary he qualifies as “impossible to live on my business at 50% in that way ”.


If the roadmap of the de-escalation is successful, the tourism sector could save part of its season, since the hospitality industry would not have to wait for the total reopening of the country to start receiving customers. From next Monday the first terraces will reopen, with 50% of their capacity (increased from 30%), with an area reserved for the elderly. Starting on May 26, restaurants (interiors) will be accessible with a limitation of a third of their capacity and from June 8, in phase 4, attendance could be allowed to exceed 50%. Discotheques and bars will then able to open if they guarantee a third of their capacity, at most. And hotels will be able to open common areas, limited to half their capacity. But all that, is still pending the return of tourists, which is another problem entirely.