The hospitality sector in Gran Canaria ‘breathes again’ after opening interiors
The hospitality sector in Gran Canaria has breathed a sigh of relief after the Canary Islands Government decided to lower the alert level for the island to 2, meaning they can open their interiors again, after almost a year of ups and downs and closures and restriction since the pandemic broke out.
Bars, cafes and restaurants are still subject to restrictions on capacity limits, distancing of tables, and curfew, but these have been relaxed under level 2 to 50% of capacity inside and 75% of terraces allowed to be used, and a closing time of 11pm.
This has been indicated by the president of the Association of Bars, Cafes, Restaurants and Nightlife of Las Palmas, an organization which has been integrated into the Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Entrepreneurs, (FEHT), Fermín Sánchez. As he said yesterday, the situation continues to be critical for many businesses but at least they can breathe again by allowing the reopening of the interior of the premises with a maximum of six diners per table (on level 3 there were four) and a curfew at 11pm. "It allows there to be customers inside as well as outside, and for there to be a proper meal service, as with a 10pm curfew we lost our dinners almost completely," he said.
He did add though, that “the increase in capacity of terraces from 50% to 75% hardly represents an improvement, because the measure is accompanied by the obligation to maintain a distance between chairs and tables that cuts the terraces considerably, and leaves them out of profitability. We need to apply one rule or another, the two don’t make sense because they practically cancel the use of terraces," said Sánchez.
For this reason, FEHT have requested that the city councils maintain the increased terraces that have been improvised in recent weeks (called 'express terraces') which have been salvation for many businesses. According to Sánchez “The express terraces have worked and have allowed businesses to move forward, but now they have started to remove them already, and with it the investments that many entrepreneurs made to prepare them which they haven’t seen a return on.”
“We believed that the mayor saw it with good eyes but they have been removed very quickly,” says Sánchez, who points out that in the next few days they will address the mayor of Las Palmas about the suitability of expanding the terraces. “We are not only talking about business, we are talking about employment.”
In addition to the Las Palmas council, that of Gáldar has also refused to maintain the 'express terraces' while those of San Bartolomé de Tirajana and Telde will still keep them at alert level 2.
Sánchez expresses his dissatisfaction with the disparity of criteria between the different municipalities and with the reversal of a measure that generates income and supports a sector that has accumulated numerous losses since the start of the pandemic.
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Because of this, a group of 30 hospitality venue owners from Gran Canaria, with restaurants in different towns on the island, are approaching the constitution as an association, studying the presentation of a collective lawsuit against the Government of the Canary Islands for the losses suffered as a result of the restrictions imposed by the regional Executive.
The group is basing this on the precedent set by the ruling of the Basque Country on February 9th, which forced businesses to reopen, proving that they were not the source of the contagions.
Going back to level 2 will allow restaurateurs to increase income although, as Sánchez warns, these are still insufficient to maintain business. "In many cases they will not manage to cover expenses but they allow us to continue moving forward.” The association estimates that in level 2 sales will remain 50% below what they were a year ago (in the five weeks of level 3, turnover was reduced by 80%).
The hospitality sector represented by the Association of Bars, Cafes, Restaurants and Nightlife of Las Palmas, continues to hope and trust that the Government of the Canary Islands will approve direct aid for the sector that goes beyond a deferral of the payment of taxes, as has been launched in other autonomous communities.