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Support local small businesses

Considered a British institution, the appeal of the “pub” has seen a considerable decline across the UK for some time. In fact, it is claimed that in the UK, since the dawn of the millennium, around a thousand pubs have closed down each year, many of the centrepieces of social life now standing as a decaying symbol of the communities that once thrived.

In fact, on ITV on Thursday of this week, Jonathan Maitland investigates the “danger” of losing your local. Reporting how Britain’s pubs support nearly a million jobs, inject an average of 80,000 pounds into their local economy each year and are still considered cornerstones of the community.

However, with the figure now standing at an estimated 30 pub closures nationwide each week, this national tradition seems to be under threat, thus asking the question, “Can the great British boozer bounce back?”

As many a UK resident expatriated to Spain in search for a better life, so many of our institutions and businesses followed, with British shops selling everything from furniture to fashion, service and trades people offering their skills to growing communities over here, newspaper and radio stations of course, and a selection of bars and restaurants acting as social hubs for our new found groups of friends, colleagues and associates.

Now, it seems that same decay is setting in here, caused by a number of factors. A visit to any known centre point of social life shows how dramatic and risky the business of operating a bar or restaurant can be, apparent due to the number of bars closing down.

Throughout the summer, one of the issues affecting some bars was the risk of fines for emitting live music. Although the licensing requirements played a big part, with some of the affected businesses not having the appropriate permits for live performances. That didn´t detract from the fact that many of the clientele of the bars demanded live entertainment, and so with many customers feeling let down, it could be arguable that many of them might no longer subscribe to a quieter form of pub life.

Some think that the smoking ban has been the downfall of the local bar, but statistics prove otherwise in Spain, with most of the previous bar-based smokers opting to give up smoking, rather than the bar, others still continuing by going outside. In fact, there are still many Spanish bars which are packed to the rafters as frequently as before, with a smoke-free zone inside, and those who chose to partake crowding around small gardens or doorways.

An official report published in May said that consumers in Spain spend more than 7 billion euro on tobacco products and more than 3 billion euro on alcohol each year, and despite the country-wide smoking ban in certain areas, Spain is still in the top 5 countries of smokers, with cigarette consumption actually increasing, as each smoker now uses 2,462 cigarettes (or equivalent) per year, whereas the average spent on alcohol was 684 euro per person, an increase of 1.30%, showing how both have increased.

The financial situation has of course left many with less disposable income, perhaps more choosing to buy alcohol at hugely discounted rates in supermarkets for home consumption, rather than the seemingly inflated price at a bar, where the expenses of providing the service are seldom considered.

There are not as many ex-pats here to visit the numerous bars on offer of course. Based on the closing data for last year´s census, the registered population of Spain decreased by 404,619 people in 2013, now standing at 46.7 million people, a loss of almost 3 million people in 10 years.

Of the immigrant population, the Institute of National Statistics revealed that, with the exception of the Chinese, all foreign national groups are decreasing, the biggest fall being within the British population, with 87,000 registered Brits having left last year.

The Valencia region was hardest hit by the decline, with 118,000 foreigners having left, some 29% of the entire expatriate total.

Of course we shall have to wait and see how the population figure is presented at the end of this year, but we already know that foreigners are returning, as we reported in August, when Orihuela´s Councillor for International Residents, Martina Scheurer, explained how, despite Orihuela losing residents from the official figures at the end of 2013, the numbers which will be presented to the National Statistics Institute for this year had already surpassed the loss, with the official number of residents in the coastal zone standing at 35,599, more than before the clean up was carried out.

Of that figure, 18,177, more than half, are British citizens, although there are a total of 71 nationalities represented. Within the Spanish population, around 3,000 people were wiped off the census, but 4,504 new people have registered as being residents.

We have to wait to see how the figures for Torrevieja are presented, as they were at risk of having to wipe even more off their census, under the threat that the size of the reduction could also mean a downgrade in the status of the municipality.

Despite all of these facts, figures, questions and suggestions, one thing still remains clear. Bars and restaurants are continuing to close their doors at an alarming rate. If the question is simply, “Can the great British boozer in Spain bounce back?” then the answer is “yes”, but their future lies in our hands.

Picking just one of the many expat pockets in the area, there was a time, not too long ago, when, in Cabo Roig, good pubs and bars, fine cuisine and restaurants were aplenty, as were customers, who flocked to the area in droves to enjoy an afternoon or an evening out.

Even during December and January the ‘strip’ was well supported with only the occasional establishment closing during the winter months, mostly through choice. But even those would reopen after Christmas, usually in time for the much lauded ‘St Patrick’s day’ celebrations held in mid February.

Now though, as the economic conditions remain ‘fragile’ the situation has been turned on its head with more bars closed for the winter than remain open, many of which will continue to be so until a new owner or proprietor can be found. Even those ‘long established concerns ‘ many thought to have ‘rock solid customer bases’ are struggling, only managing to survive by virtue of cut price offers or by reducing their staff numbers or trading days.

Indeed of the 58 bars and restaurants listed on the local website caboroigspain.eu, which was last updated in November 2013, only 19 remain open, although a small number of others have already changed hands. And the situation is much the same in similar urbanizations throughout the region.

So the message is quite simple, if we don´t use our local facilities, amenities, businesses, bars and restaurants, we are each responsible for their demise.

Sure it might be more convenient to head off to one of the larger multi-use centres where we can do our shopping, have a bite to eat, a few drinks and enjoy the entertainment laid on, all in one hit, but all the while that we continue to use these commercial Goliaths, the heartbeat of our local communities is fading away, some quite possibly beyond resuscitation.

This Christmas and New Year we should all beat the drum for our local community tradesfolk,….Start using your local bars, businesses and restaurants before it is too late. Here on the Costa Blanca they are the heartbeat of the expatriate community. Do your bit NOW to “support your local”, and its revival will not be too far away.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45904/

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