Chiringuito Fate

One of the most worrying and much talked about news stories of the month has been the plight of the beloved Spanish beach bar (or chiringuito to us Spanglish speakers). Upon receiving a warning from the Environment Ministry that beach bars must shift their wares off the sand in order to comply with coastal law, beach bar owners last month declared war. Not happy to just sit back (literally) and shuffle their tables onto the pavement they decided to take action, formed a committee and called crisis meetings.
The crackdown comes as an implementation of the ‘law of coasts’ that was drawn up several years ago in response to criticism that Spain’s beaches were over-developed and under-protected, many referring to Spain’s somewhat developed coastline as a ‘a concrete jungle.’ And it’s not just the ugly skyline at stake, the Environment Ministry fears that if the law is not upheld irreparable damage will occur. Under the plan the coastline will be freed of construction, and many business and homeowners are already being relocated. And now it’s the turn of the bars. The only slight hiccup in the governments bulldozing plan is that, despite their pull, they can’t brutally enforce the law without cooporation from regional governments who have the final say, and who currently seem to support the chiringuitos that are like lucrative little honey pots for tourists throughout the summer. So a compromise must be reached and the battle has begun. Round one goes to the feisty bunch of beach bar owners who, after being let down on the promise that talks would begin in March, threatened to take to the streets of Madrid and “…hand out skewers of sardines,” until the government agreed to hear them out. I fear this could get messy.
At the forefront of the battle and leading the way for beach bars across Andalucía is Franciso Trujillo, Chairman of the Asociación de Chiringuitos, who helped secure a small win for the bars on the coast of Granada and who were the first to undergo talks in Madrid in an attempt to secure their place in the sand.
Currently, Granada region boasts a whopping 52 chiringuitos and employs around 300 permanent staff, with more jobs opening up during the summer. The main fear is that by cramming tourists onto the pavement to dine, business will be seriously affected and restaurant space drastically reduced, forcing some beach bars out of business.
Luckily, the 2,000 or so beach bars in Andalusia are clubbing together to fight the legislation and have the total support of not only the Junta de Andalucía but the thousands of tourists and residents who enjoy the charming tradition of being able to sip tinto-de-verano with sand between their toes. Spain’s’ beaches just wouldn’t be the same without the waft of smoky fish and the lively atmosphere these places provide! So don’t be surprised if a petition gets passed your way next time you find yourself hanging out in one of the chiringuitos and, unless you’re a die-hard environmentalist, sign up and show your support.

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