Thursday, July 7

Tension rises in the ghost kitchens of Madrid: fires, breakdowns, litigation and chefs who abandon them

“Monday’s accident shows the danger of an activity that should be located in industrial zones, and never in residential buildings.” This was said by the Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid (FRAMV) after a fire in the ghost kitchens on Canillas Street (Prosperidad) ended with a power outage across the street, which affected residents and businesses in the city for several hours. area.

Neighborhood uprising in the Madrid district with more ghost kitchens

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The fire, originating in a transformer, occurred on Monday despite the fact that the 38 ghost kitchens that will be housed there have not yet come into operation. The Madrid City Council is still processing its license. It was “a small short circuit,” according to the Urban Development delegate, Mariano Fuentes, despite the fact that it forced the intervention of several fire crews and left the neighborhood without electricity. The City Council tries to reduce the noise and pressure on this type of business, which is proliferating coinciding with the boom in food delivery. In parallel, neighborhood complaints and annoyances increase around them.

The one in Canillas was the last but not the only serious event in recent days in Madrid. The previous one was also caused by Cooklane, a company linked to the founder of Uber that is setting up the Prosperidad facility and that had another headache on José Calvo Street (Tetuán), where it has been operating 20 industrial fires for months, with constant complaints. Their kitchen freezers broke there last week, for unknown reasons. The solution devised by the company was to place a freezer truck parked on the street and put all the food that was on the way to going bad: every time its cooks needed gender, they went out on the street, took the food and got into it. Again to cook them, dodging the high tension cable that crossed the road and the sidewalk to keep the truck’s generators plugged in. The neighbors, fed up with the daily movement of motorcyclists and the smells of the chimneys, exploded because of the danger and noise of the truck.

Such was the level of anger among the inhabitants of this street in Berruguete – the first place where a neighborhood response to ghost kitchens was put together – that Cooklane tried to calm their spirits by offering them free sandwiches and pizza. The neighbors rejected them, because they did not want to eat anything that had been elaborated in the focus of their problems. Then the company sent them a letter in which it promised some reforms in their kitchens related to systems to reduce bad odors, soundproofing, improvement in loading and unloading. He even promised to sanction cooks and delivery men “who do not have an exemplary behavior.” Cooklane acknowledged in this letter that his business creates inconveniences for the neighbors who live next to him: “We know that there are certain activities that are being annoying and we want them to see a real purpose to correct them,” they wrote in the text.

For neighborhood associations, it is clear that this business model has “manifest impacts on air quality, noise pollution, mobility and, as we have seen, safety,” the FRAMV denounces as a result of the latest incidents. And the tension continues to rise, because on Wednesday a person attacked in front of the ghost kitchen of Canillas 18 to a team of journalists from Telemadrid, who at that time were interviewing the residents of the area live.

A month and a half ago, the FRAMV denounced the activity of eight dark kitchen, including the two mentioned above. In addition, there are six others that are causing problems: they are C / Suero de Quiñones 11 and C / Manuano 4 (Chamartín), C / San Bernardino 20 (Downtown), Felipe Fraile 5 (Puente de Vallecas), Araucaria 19 (Tetuán ) and C / Alejandro Ferrant 8 (Arganzuela). Although the list could be even longer as other new projects in the making come into operation in the capital.

The City Council began to inspect these kitchens just after the complaint, in May, as indicated this Thursday by the Urban Development delegate himself: “We focus on those establishments that already had a license,” he added before ensuring that both the Agency of Activities such as the General Directorate of Sustainability are carrying out inspections of economic activities “that may present a problem of neighborhood coexistence”, also of places such as workplaces or large restaurants throughout the city, which are also being used as kitchens for delivery.

The FRAVM and the Platform for People Affected by Phantom Kitchens believe that it is not enough and requests specific urban legislation to regulate this new type of activity, which did not exist until a couple of years ago. In addition to requesting its ban on residential buildings, they also demand a moratorium on licenses until the law is modified, as the Barcelona City Council is already doing.

Goodbye to Dani García and legal battle

Like the circuses in which dwarfs grow up, Cooklane’s problems increased when he learned that after all the controversies one of his most prestigious clients, chef Dani García, announced that he would leave the space and its services to look for another place less troubled. The three Michelin stars had been operating there for months with its food delivery brand, La Gran Familia Mediterránea. He had hired the services of Cooklane to accommodate his cooks and recipes in this space, something much more comfortable for this prestigious chef than setting up his own premises. According to the website of your tenant, starting a business of this type in your space only takes between two and four weeks and requires an investment of € 40,000, compared to 12 months of time and the million euros of expense that it could take a chef to set up this infrastructure on his own, they say.

The inhabitants of José Calvo Street celebrated Dani García’s farewell to the dark kitchen that worry them: “A wise decision, I do not think it compensates to screw up the lives of the neighbors and their own image for a lot of money at stake,” they explained. And then they told Somos Tetuán that the final victory will occur when these businesses “go to an industrial estate because the smoke from what they cook is being swallowed by the neighbors.”

In addition to protesting, some residents have opted for legal action to try to stop these industrial facilities from settling next to their homes and schools. This is the case of the families of the Miguel de Unamuno school (Arganzuela), who denounced the City Council on May 28 for allowing the installation of another ghost kitchen next to the schoolyard. Four visible chimneys show their location and are shown in a complaint video published last Wednesday, which under the title Julia’s school explain your situation.

The video stars a student from the center and shot by a mother who works as a filmmaker. All the strength and knowledge of the families have been put to fight against a future that they see full of bad smells and delivery motorists: groups of architects and engineers review the licenses, others with better communication skills have opened channels on social networks and speak with the press … together they have set up a crowdfunding which will serve to defray the litigation against the Madrid City Council. At the moment, the collection is going at a good pace and is about to reach its minimum goal, although they hope to reach the 21,700 that have been marked to pay for the expert report, the lawyers and the attorney they need to take the case.

“We do not want to reach a situation of total insecurity and unhealthiness,” explains Noelia, one of the mothers involved in the neighborhood struggle, unified in the neighborhood under the Stop Cocinas Fantasma Delicias platform. They do not know if the judicial process will be successful, they move in uncertainty but they believe that their protests can help to change the way of seeing some services and the price that has to be paid for them. “People should think about where the food they order comes from,” he adds.