About 10 years ago I spent a few days in Barcelona. It was just before a draconian new smoking ban was going to be imposed. I spent much of my time wandering from bar to bar in the district of Esplugues de Llobregat, having a coffee in one, a beer in another, and smoking in all of them. I recorded the names and locations of each bar on a map. In brackets were the approximate number of tables, with X indicating outside seating. Only 4 of the 29 bars were non-smoking.
Of course they’re all non-smoking now.
Since then I’ve never revisited Barcelona in person. And at one time I’d thought seriously of buying a house in Spain. Why go somewhere where I was no longer welcome?
Yesterday I was using Google maps to virtually revisit Esplugues, and wander around it using streetview. And I tried to find out how the bars were doing.
One place I visited every morning was the Caseta bar right next to the Hostal Lami where I always used to stay. I’d buy a coffee and a hot bacon roll, and slowly wake up with a cigarette or two. It had no outside tables. And it’s gone now, replaced with a laundrette.
Just down the road was the Chico d’Oro, which also didn’t have any outside tables. And that’s gone too.
Just round the corner was the Andurina, which had a large outdoor seating area. It’s still open. But it seemed to have very few customers at the outside tables. And the number of tables seemed to be halved from my recollection of them.
Not far away was El Gran Jaguar. I spoke to its proprietor, Stephanie, at the time, and she was very worried about the upcoming smoking ban. She said that 80% of her customers smoked. And it would seem that he apprehensions were justified, because El Gran Jaguar is gone.
The Canarias bar and the Cafeteca bar are both still open, but both have tables outside with ashtrays. I don’t remember either having outside tables 10 years ago. Unnamed bar 18 is also still open.
I couldn’t find the Conde Bicou restaurant on its beautiful little tree-lined street made of granite bricks with mini street lights like candles set along both sides – a beautiful sight at night. But it was hard to find back then, so it may still be there.
That’s 3 out 0f 8 bars that have closed. And it rather looks like the survivors all managed to provide outside seating, with ashtrays on the tables.. In some cases it looks like the shop windows were moved inside, in order to create a small covered area for a table or two,
It’s hardly a scientific survey. There are lots of reasons other than smoking bans that cause bars to close.
But even in November, when I visited, Barcelona was quite warm. So people could probably happily sit outside throughout much of the winter. Even more so further south than Barcelona.
The same can’t be done in Britain, where it’s only warm enough to sit outside for a few months in summer/ And Britain is also a wetter place than Spain.
Nevertheless it still fills me with rage that the bullying bastards in Public Health have been able to impose their diktat on so many places, and on so many people. Public Health has become a vast global industry, full of busybodies who are accountable to no-one.
I’m going to hate these people all my life.