Covid-19 restrictions: “Out of 500 reservations, there are around 290 left, and everything is in the air” | Economy and business
Three weeks ago, the diaries of many restaurants in Barcelona were practically full of reservations for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Sant Esteve (December 26) and New Years Eve. But within days, the message from these establishments went from “sorry we’re full” to bitter regret following a wave of cancellations. Staff have gone to great lengths to find solutions to keep reservations in place, either dividing large groups into smaller tables or even offering a discounted take-out service. “Out of 500 reservations, there are around 290 left, and everything is in the air”, complains Maria José, manager of the Salamanca restaurant, one of the most traditional places to celebrate the end of the year celebrations in the capital. Catalan.
She is not the only one to be upset by the situation. Many restaurateurs have protested the damage caused by the latest restrictions put in place in Catalonia by regional authorities in an attempt to slow the sixth wave of the pandemic, which sees the omicron variant sending infections through the roof. The rules currently in place – each region is in charge of its Covid measures, which require the blessing of the courts – prohibit meetings of more than 10 people, limit the capacity of reception places to 50% indoors, and have completely closed the nightlife area.
In Barcelona and other Catalan municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants and an incidence over 14 days of more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a curfew is in place from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. These restrictions were announced by the Catalan regional government four days before Christmas and went into effect Thursday evening at midnight. This coincided with the start of the hospitality holiday campaign, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the industry. The outlook was optimistic before the new measures were put in place, thanks to the confidence placed in the vaccination campaign and the introduction of so-called “Covid passports” for entry into places such as bars and restaurants. the restaurants.
But things turned out very differently. “What they can’t expect is people eating their grapes at midnight [a Spanish tradition on New Year’s Eve, when 12 grapes are eaten as the bells chime] then they have to run home because there is a curfew, ”they say from the Salamanca restaurant, where 200 reservations have been canceled for December 31. “It’s a total farce.
Full refrigerators, empty tables
The new restrictions left refrigerators full to capacity but with few customers to serve. “Things were even more complicated this year because there are transport problems, and as there were going to be [trucker] strikes this week, some products have been stored to ensure supply, ”explain sources in the hotel industry. These supply issues have caused the prices of some common Christmas dishes, such as lamb, to increase. “And now, what do we do?” »Asks another restaurateur.
“We lost 15 reservations in half an hour,” explains Eduard Urgell, boss of An Grup, which owns several restaurants in Barcelona like Citrus and El Mussol. “It’s clear that all of these positive cases and restrictions have caused exponential growth in restaurant lunch and dinner cancellations, just like with the virus.” The same group also has restaurants in Madrid, where the regional government has not implemented any such measures.
Urgell won’t go so far as to predict how the Christmas campaign will end, but he points out that the 50% capacity limit doesn’t make sense given the number of cancellations suffered. “The worst in these restrictions, because [in Catalonia] we have the experience of it, it is that they were decided so brutally. Now, we would accept that half of the reservations stay in place and that these restrictions actually stay in place for two weeks. It’s a shame, because like other restaurateurs, we had hired additional staff for this campaign, ”he adds.
Other restaurateurs don’t even want to talk to the press. Meanwhile, establishments such as Salamanca explain that, as happened during other periods of restrictions during the pandemic, they will end up cooking food for Cáritas or similar charities, in order to feed those in the situation. vulnerability.