Tuesday, October 19

Almeida, between the lobby of the terraces and the conservative neighborhoods that rise up against them

The Madrid City Council chaired by the leader of the PP José Luis Martínez-Almeida in coalition with Ciudadanos has been dealing for months with the two fronts that have been opened to it since the pandemic broke out: on the one hand, it wants to satisfy the hospitality sector, which has given all kinds of facilities so that they do not paralyze their activity considering that they are “the engine of the Madrid economy”; on the other, he is seeing how so much permissiveness has generated a strong malaise among the neighbors, mainly in those districts and neighborhoods where the vote for the PP is majority, such as Salamanca, Retiro or Chamberí.

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While Ayuso, shouting “freedom”, was venerated during the campaign of the autonomic elections by young people and owners of bars, the mayor met with the lobby of the sector, the associations of the guild, such as AMER, the restorers of the Plaza Mayor and Hostelería Madrid, to promise them an urgent reform in the ordinance of terraces that the City Council is now finalizing. The plan is for the so-called COVID terraces to continue open beyond December 31 with great chances that they will stay forever. In fact, the vice mayor of the city, Begoña Villacís, was already in favor of it a long time ago.

“It must be appreciated that many of them can stay because it is a more intelligent use of public space,” said Villacís, and because, in his opinion, Madrid “cannot afford to lose more than 2,000 jobs.” The issue caused friction between the coalition partners, to the point that the hoteliers appreciated the position of Ciudadanos, which has the powers. At the moment, it seems that his position is winning. The restoration entrepreneurs in return have offered to the local corporation “to pay a fee as an enlarged terrace” since January 1, 2022, since until now they have been exempt from doing so. The number of new tables on terraces due to COVID amounts to 5,700.

As explained last week by the spokesperson for the Governing Board, Inmaculada Sanz, the idea is to be able to find a balance to guarantee the activity of the hoteliers and neighborhood coexistence and that is the aim pursued by the new ordinance in which the City Council works. Quite a difficult challenge. This Tuesday, Villacís gave some detail about it and announced a plan to beautify the terraces. Among the proposals are awnings that isolate noise or public sound level meters in stressed areas, that is, in those where noise exceeds the permitted threshold.

Madrid returned to “normality” this Monday after the decision of the regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, to put an end to capacity and schedule limitations. According to the decree of the Community of Madrid, from now on the gauges are eliminated in all sectors of economic or social activity, both indoors and outdoors. In the hotel and restaurant industry, the maximum limits of occupants per table indoors and outdoors are therefore suppressed, and bar service is partially recovered by allowing people to consume while seated.

Precisely the greatest anger in Madrid is generated by the proliferation of these COVID terraces – more than 5,700 since June 2020 – which have robbed residents of numerous parking spaces as they are generally installed in the green areas of the SER. But also because of the noise and discomfort they generate.

“Walking down the street has become an impossible mission. The terraces invade everything. In my area they have had to relocate garbage cans because they have taken away the place where we usually put them. There are condemned benches without being able to sit on them, surrounded by motorcycles on the sidewalk. Personally, I had never seen anything like it in the many years that I have lived here. I am sick of this and I know that there are many more of us, “complains Pilar, a resident of the Salamanca district and owner of a house on Calle de Goya, right in front of the WiZink Center.

The Madrilenian confesses that last Saturday she called the Municipal Police: “I couldn’t get through with the shopping cart because one of the bars near my house had placed a high table in front of the space set up for its terrace, which is already huge. with a poster with the menu and barely left room to pass “. When she returned from her shopping, the table and the bulletin board were gone. “At least I verified that he had listened to me,” Pilar is delighted.

Salamanca, along with Retiro, is one of the districts most ‘punished’ by the concentration of both permanent and temporary terraces (allowed by COVID). In fact, the saturation of terraces in the city has reached such an extreme that the Municipal Board of Retiro decreed last Thursday the suspension of the processing of new applications for terraces and watchmen, both COVID and non-COVID, in the most ” stressed “. In this way, the City Council will paralyze everything that supposes an “increase in the space used by the terraces or the installation of awnings, fixed anchored dividers, flowerpots or plant decoration, enclosures or light structures or any other element with fixation to the pavement” in the streets of Ibiza, Sainz de Baranda and Menéndez Pelayo. As the municipal spokesperson later clarified, it is a “pilot project” that will not be extended to other neighborhoods at the moment.

But protests are raging especially in areas that were previously considered quiet. “At first the terraces didn’t bother me because the noise and the revelry would soon end. Then it lasted until midnight. The kids hang around drinking, in the square, until someone tells the municipal authorities and they kick them out, explains Luis , a neighbor of the Fuente del Berro neighborhood.

Very close to his neighborhood, on Hermosilla street, almost at the corner of Doctor Esquerdo, is located ‘La Cocina de Hermosilla’, a bar run for four years by a married couple from the Dominican Republic, one of many in the area, who obtained permission to install one of these COVID terraces in the hole where cars used to park. Escar Pérez, el Flaco, as he is familiarly called, has been in Spain for 12 years and works the business with his wife, Epifania. In all these months, he says, he has had “no problem” with the neighborhood.

At midnight, Escar vacates the terrace and lets customers consume inside the premises at tables or at the bar until two in the morning. “I am apolitical. I am neutral,” he clarifies, although he does not hide that he is happy with the management that the Madrid City Council and the Community are doing. “They give us facilities. If not, we could not survive.”

Another district, perhaps the one that has most demonstrated a great reputation for the president of the Community of Madrid, is Chamberí. There, where the 4M the PP swept away, many hoteliers on Ponzano street – crowded with COVID terraces – placed in their establishments during the campaign photos of the PP candidate in which they said: “I, with Ayuso” and posters with the motto “Ayuso we are all”.

Next to Ponzano, the Plaza de Olavide, the nerve center of this district, is another of the biggest concentration points for traditional terraces. There, contrary to what happens in other areas visited by this writing, both the residents and the hoteliers consulted say that they are “delighted” with the “life” that there is. This is what Francisco, owner of Kybey II, says, the bar he has run “for 33 years.” According to it, during all that time “never” has had problems neither with the neighborhood nor with the Municipal Police. “You have to activate the economy,” he says, ensuring that in his opinion both the City Council and the Community “are doing very well.” “What hurts are the large bottles that irresponsible young people mount,” he adds.

Francisco lives around the corner from his business, on Palafox Street, like Sandra, a young mother of a baby that she carries in her stroller, with whom she stands at the door of the premises while chatting with Gloria, retired and also neighboring Calle Palafox. They both joke about their respective political sympathies. The two agree that it is good for the hospitality industry to function “normally” and assure that coexistence with noise in the square is “tolerable”. “Here the schedules are respected and there are never problems”, they affirm.


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