Shrinking beaches threaten chiringuitos in Barcelona

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Catalan beaches

The beach culture in Barcelona is vibrant with numerous trendy beach bars and iconic chiringuitos. Yet this beach culture is now under pressure. The constant erosion and loss of sand on the beaches means that these beloved catering establishments have less and less space to welcome their customers.

In just one year, the Catalan capital has seen three of these cases disappear. This trend could have worrying consequences for the local economy and tourism.

The battle against the elements

During Semana Santa, Storm Nelson swept away between 15% and 30% of the sand along Barcelona’s five kilometre coastline. This concerns 130,000 square metres of surface area. That’s the equivalent of four of the nine beaches in the city. El País writes that the city council hopes some of the sand will return naturally. However, a request has already been submitted to the Ministry of Ecological Transition to resupply the beaches with sand. “We are not giving up our beaches. Preserving the lost surface is a priority,” said Mayor Jaume Collboni.

A succession of storms hinders the natural recovery of the coast through the deposition of sediment. The beach is eroded, especially by southern storms. These storms have become more common in recent years. As a result, the coast is slowly eroding and the facilities on the beach, in addition to beach bars, also stairs, decking and showers, are in danger.

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Direct consequences for Barcelona chiringuitos

During the last sand replenishment in 2010, 791,138 cubic metres of sand were added. Since then, almost 130,000 square metres of beach area have been lost. This has direct consequences for the chiringuitos. The number of these beach bars has fallen from 16 to 13 this year. Even the popular chiringuito BeGay has to move 200 metres due to the disappearing sand. A new contribution from sand is not expected until 2025 at the earliest. In the meantime, storms continue to arrive, which also prevent the municipality from finishing the beaches. In November, Storm Ciarán washed away the beach of Nova Mar Bella. The wall of the promenade cracked. Repairs to that wall had just been completed when the sea attacked the coastline again during Semana Santa.

Entrepreneurs speak

Israel Flores, owner of BeGay, and Josep Carbonell of Chiringuito Group express their concerns about the situation. Flores speaks about the impact of the disappearing sand on his turnover. Carbonell also sees opportunities for the remaining businesses due to the concentration of visitors. However, both entrepreneurs emphasise the need for action to preserve the beaches and thus their businesses.

Not only chiringuitos affected

Restaurants along the coast of the Barceloneta district are also affected by the erosion. Grupo Arenal, with two establishments on the beach, must regularly take measures to prevent flooding. “We check the sea every day to see if our terrace and restaurant are at risk,” shares Josep Maria González, manager of the Xup-xup restaurant.

Also read: Beaches in Barcelona are disappearing

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