Barcelona city council is to start taking decisive action against catering establishments that put tables on public spaces.
The city council claims many are illegal and take up too much public space, a rumbling dispute that took a new turn last month when the regional government announced plans to ban smoking on the terraces in Catalonia.
Since the indoor smoking ban came into force in 2010, driving smokers into the street, the number of terraces (which serve as de-facto smoking areas) has proliferated, prompting a crackdown from the authorities.
Roger Pallarols, president of the Barcelona restaurateurs association, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that “the effect of the ban on smoking indoors was to double the number of outside tables in Barcelona from 2,500 to 5,000 and this saved many establishments from going out of business.”
Pallarols, who complains that his association wasn’t consulted about the proposed smoking ban added that the outside areas have become a refuge for what are a significant number of clients.
They have been at the heart of a long running dispute between bar owners and locals. Being able to have a drink or a meal on a terrace is a big draw for tourists, and restauranteurs say they rely on this income.
But residents complain their local bars have become overcrowded, and say people sit out late at night, get drunk and keep them awake. They have been urging the council to act over the noise.
Last year the city and the restaurant industry agreed a new bylaw to regulate terraces – effectively, to reduce the number of tables. However, neither residents nor the industry is happy with the way it’s been implemented.
Under the bylaw, terraces must close at midnight from Sunday to Thursday and at 1am on Friday, Saturday and public holidays.
On the other hand, many Barcelonans – smokers and non-smokers alike – believe there are more pressing health issues to deal with, air pollution. The city is up before the European Court of Justice for allegedly failing to take measures to improve air quality.
Along with pollution, the other big issue in Barcelona is street crime, especially pickpockets and bag snatchers.
Via The Guardian