Thursday night was distressing for the restorers of Catalonia. The day before, they discovered that they had to cease their activity for at least two weeks, a measure that is part of the new package of severe restrictions approved by the Generalitat to stop the expansion of covid-19. In 48 hours, explained Luz Tamara and Edu Cruz, owners of Sur Café, an establishment in the Eixample of Barcelona, they had to manage the closure. “And what do I do with what I have in the refrigerators for a week? It’s a lost genre, ”says Tamara. The uncertainty remained until last midnight, waiting for the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) to authorize or not the restrictions. “Faced with so much confusion, at the last minute I called the Mossos d’Esquadra and 112,” recalls Tamara, “they told me they knew the same as I did, to follow the news to find out if we were finally closing.”
“Until late at night we didn’t know anything. This is not competent. Closing overnight means losing at least 40% of what I have invested in gender “, lament Marc Ferrer and his wife, Ceci Nieto. Earlier this Friday they had met with their employees at the Can Pascual restaurant, on Calabria street. They were still waiting for the TSJC’s decision. “That at least they let us open the terrace,” Ferrer confided. Two contractors in the kitchen depend on it, who were in a trial period and, if they close again, they will not be able to continue. The rest of the workforce, seven employees, will once again benefit from the temporary employment regulation file (ERTE). The suspension of the activity can affect 200,000 workers. In the accumulated of the year, in the field of hospitality there are more than 116,000 employees in ERTE in Catalonia.
The vast majority of establishments have pulled up the blind to sell drinks and other take-out products, but it is an insufficient option to cover operating expenses, confirms Jing Cui. Last June, she and her husband took over the reins of the Mercadillo bar, on London Street in Barcelona. The worst thing about opening a business in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic is uncertainty. “One day you think it gets a little better but the next it gets worse again,” says Jing. In these months she has gone from having two employees to working alone with her and her husband. For this restaurateur of Chinese origin, closing her bar is absurd. “Why me and not the buses and the subway, which are full?”
The comparison with public transport is recurrent among all those interviewed, except in the case of David Castellanos, manager of Frankfurt Roussillon. Castellanos believes that the measures are necessary to improve the health situation. He does regret the surprise of the closure announcement: “We knew that in the fall there would be another wave, but this has caught us off guard because it has been from one day to the next.”
Castellanos recalls that the new measures also affect food suppliers: “It is a domino effect. For the commercial that sells me the bread for hamburgers, for example, the income plummets ”. A spokeswoman for Mercabarna, the main food distribution center for restaurants and shops in Catalonia, reports that the impact on most of its companies is minimal because “what people do not consume in the hotel trade they buy to consume at home.” Where there is an important impact, according to the Mercabarna press office, is in the wholesalers of fresh fish for restaurants. Professionals such as Jaume Loré, supplier of fish for the hotel industry, are again left without income. During the pandemic, six of its 16 clients had closed, six stores in the old town of Barcelona that depended on tourism. “The 10 that were left had managed to recover 50%, 60% of the turnover,” explains Loré, “but now, again, we are out of work again. My wife runs a creperie that has also closed. We don’t have any income and we have to continue paying the mortgage, the loans, the children’s school. How can a family endure this? “
Cruz and Tamara had managed to recover 60% of the usual billing in their cafeteria in October. They could hardly hold the business after the spring lockdown, mainly thanks to family efforts and the ICO credit they were granted. Now they hope that the problems will get worse, and their main concern is how the fall in household income may affect the education of their two children. At the moment, they explain with regret, this course has had to change the educational centers in which they were enrolled.