Huge resistance from Spanish hospitality industry to minister’s proposal to bring closing time forward

by Lorraine Williamson
closing time debate

The Spanish hospitality industry is strongly opposed to bringing forward the closing time, as Employment Minister Yolanda Díaz proposed on Monday. “If this is approved, we will go under.”

Día announced on Monday her proposal to bring forward the closing time for the hospitality industry. According to her, it is “not reasonable” for restaurants in Spain to be open until one o’clock in the morning, as this would pose a risk to the mental health of employees.

Yolanda Díaz said about the closing times of restaurants: “From 22:00, the working hours have mental health risks”. The proposal by the Minister of Employment is causing a lot of public debate and does not go down well with the restaurant and leisure sector, which claims that it goes completely against Spanish culture and that it would be difficult to implement.

“You can’t control the social movement. She has no idea what she’s talking about,” assures a catering entrepreneur, as he finishes placing the cutlery on the tables and getting ready to serve the meals in his restaurant in Madrid’s Paseo del Prado.

Visibly disgruntled, this restaurateur – who prefers to remain anonymous – defends with a frown that this idea is intended to propose “a paradigmatic change” in social behaviour. “People who want to have a drink at one o’clock on a Friday night because they have to work late, can’t they?

Culture and customs in Spain, also in the hospitality industry

At the end of the day, our society is what we have and we adapt to what we have”, he explains, recalling that the culture and customs in other countries are very different from Spain: “If you go to Sweden, everyone is home at ten o’clock in the evening, but not here”. Therefore, he thinks that the only thing this proposal will achieve is that some restaurants will suffer losses and go bankrupt. “

Cogesa Expats

Spain thrives on services

Rafael Colino, owner of restaurant Rosario, near Madrid’s Atocha station, also sees the measure as gloomy. It would be “a problem for the employees” because he would have to lay off some of them because of the shorter opening hours.

For him, “Spain is a country that lives off services” and this regulation “would have a big impact on tourism, because here people like to go out for a beer”.

Catering in the summer

Also, he claims that the restaurant sector would have an even bigger problem in the summer season if it had to close early. “In June, you leave work at eight o’clock and it’s still sunny, it’s normal for people to leave late, that’s our culture,” he says, catching his breath after walking up and down the bar a few times to help customers.

Employers are against the measure

The employers’ organisations of the hospitality industry are also against Yolanda Díaz’s measure. For Ramón Mas, president of España de Noche (Federación Nacional de Empresarios de Ocio y Espectáculos), the provision proposed by the minister has taken them completely by surprise.

“Spain has the best life in the world and it’s all part of our lifestyle,” he told Spanish newspaper 20minutos. In the case of entertainment venues, he claims, “there would definitely be a production problem”, since Spanish society likes to “enjoy the nightlife”. “I see it as complicated.”

Mas explains that the only thing this measure can cause is “an emergency, and economic damage” for certain businesses, since the hospitality industry contributes more than 8% to GDP at the national level. Mas is also critical of politicians, concluding that ministers are sometimes far removed from society: “We don’t believe that sociological reality is taken into account. In politics, approaches have often been chosen that are far removed from social reality.”

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