It is often stated that Zaragoza is the city with the most bars per capita in Spain, the COVID era may well have a devastating impact on that claim to fame.
The statistics for the city in the old normal were impressive, 4,100 bars, 880 restaurants, 440 coffee shops and 220 hotels or accommodation. The Association of Cafes and Bars of the Zaragoza Province carried out a survey which makes for grim reading indeed. Approximately 1,000 associates confirmed that the new restrictions had already forced 21% of the establishments back into closure and that 4 out of 10 are actively considering closing for good.
Even before the return to a "flexible" phase 2 the Association had been making dire warnings about the challenges facing the sector. Of the 21% of premises that had reopened but then closed again, factors were cited from lack of profitability due to reduced capacity restrictions or direct instruction as the war against night life is waged.
Luis Femia, head of the Association is imploring authorities for understanding and support. "We do not see the same thing happen in shopping malls or other places" he says. He is calling for focus to turn to saving businesses not just providing month-long credit deals. He says "We already know that the situation of the Government is not good, but they are not going to close no matter how bad they are, and the businesses do".
The Association is calling for a change in the "alarmist tone" from the public institutions. Maintain awareness but try to avoid the spreading of fear, otherwise, it is "very difficult to reverse that message."
The Association survey is a litany of horrifying trends and statistics, only 45% of businesses said the "new normal" would enable profitable activity, under phase 2 conditions, 95% state they are losing money. Under current conditions, 18% said they could only remain open for a month or less, 45% would have to close in less than three months and 30% could remain open at the most a year. A meagre 7% predict they could survive.
38% stated they had seen turnover reduced by 20%, 39% by nearly 50% and 24% had seen a reduction of a massive 60% before the return to phase 2. Since that retrograde step 86% of respondents state that turnover had almost halved.
Many commentators have expressed the opinion that the crisis is not a product of the virus but the measures put in place to combat it. Others say they do not fear the virus, but the economic whirlwind that is to follow. The "New Normal" we are heading into will be very new, but there is very little normal about it. The beloved local bar or café pulling down the shutter one last time may be the canary in the coalmine.