15,000 tables and 40,000 chairs: this is how terraces have multiplied in Madrid | Madrid


The next two photographs show the same stretch of Calle Ponzano, in the Chamberí district of Madrid, two years apart. They exemplify how the pandemic has changed the way people go to bars and restaurants: outdoor terraces have proliferated throughout the city. But in many places they have gone from representing a temporary solution to prevent infections and keep the hotel business open to causing neighborhood conflicts.


Google Street View images

Before the pandemic Ponzano street was already an epicenter of bars and nightclubs. But on this narrow, single-lane street with sidewalks less than 3 meters wide there were barely four terraces. In sections like the one in the photo, half a dozen stores were centered but no outdoor space.

1 The Bratty; 2 Marabú; 3 Machine;

4 The dean; 5 Candeli; 6 The shield

During confinement spring 2020 the six bars on this stretch of street they ceased their activity, like those in the rest of the city: thousands of hospitality employees lost their jobs or ended up in an ERTE.

1 The Bratty; 2 Marabú; 3 Machine;

4 The dean; 5 Candeli; 6 The shield

With the ‘new normal’, At the end of spring 2020, the City Council authorized a series of extraordinary measures so that locals could expand your terraces or install them in parking spaces, with hardly paying taxes for it. As in dozens of cities around the world, the covid terraces became a lifeline for customers, who could go back out on the street and go to a bar, minimizing the chances of contagion, and for locals who returned to to open.

Installation of terraces over parking spaces

1 The Bratty; 2 Marabú; 3 Machine;

4 The dean; 5 Candeli; 6 The shield

The move was a success. In this section of Calle Ponzano, all these restaurants now have a terrace on the road or on the sidewalk. Across the street, the terraces have multiplied by 10: they have gone from 4 to 47.

Previous terraces

to confinement

Google Street View images

Before the pandemic Ponzano street was already an epicenter of bars and nightclubs. But on this narrow, single-lane street with sidewalks less than 3 meters wide there were barely four terraces. In sections like the one in the photo, half a dozen stores were centered but no outdoor space.

During confinement spring 2020 the six bars on this stretch of street they ceased their activity, like those in the rest of the city: thousands of hospitality employees lost their jobs or ended up in an ERTE.

With the ‘new normal’, At the end of spring 2020, the City Council authorized a series of extraordinary measures so that locals could expand your terraces or install them in parking spaces, with hardly paying taxes for it. As in dozens of cities around the world, the ‘covid terraces’ became a lifeline for customers, who could go back out onto the street and go to a bar, minimizing the chances of contagion, and for locals who they reopened.

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Installation of terraces over parking spaces

The move was a success. In this section of Calle Ponzano, all these restaurants now have a terrace on the road or on the sidewalk. Across the street, the terraces have multiplied by 10: they have gone from 4 to 47.

Terraces prior to confinement

But this street is no exception. His neighborhood, Ríos Rosas, is where the terraces have grown the most: they have tripled, from 54 to 171. The same happens in other neighborhoods of the Chamberí district, which adds 451 more terraces than in March 2020, more than double.

The phenomenon has been concentrated in the city center, where the terraces were already part of the landscape, but it has also reached more remote areas. For many residents, existing conflicts due to noise, dirt and the occupation of public space have worsened; for others, who did not have terraces on their streets, he has created them from scratch.

The dilemma in Madrid is now how to make the problems generated by the almost 7,000 current terraces coexist, with its 64,000 tables that can accommodate more than 200,000 customers, with a pandemic that strikes again in winter when people are most swarming indoors. In the following map you can compare, street by street, the terrace licenses granted before the pandemic with the current ones, as they appear in the public data of the City Council.


Terraces prior to 2020


New terraces

Press to explore »


Terraces prior to 2020


New terraces

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The thousands of new terraces in the city have been a good alternative to be able to combine leisure and protection against the virus. Everyone won: customers, who could avoid indoors, and locals, who circumvented capacity restrictions by offering more space outdoors. But with the passage of time the game has changed. Noise, dirt, reduced parking spaces and even altercations have become a daily problem for many neighbors. But, on the other hand, the hoteliers bring out the more than 2,700 jobs that have been created, only in Madrid, thanks to the expansion of their businesses on the streets.

On December 31, the provisional rule that has allowed to maintain the terraces as usual ends. It was already planned to approve an ordinance to regulate how they would continue, but after the new wave of covid cases, everything indicates that the provisional one will be extended, sources from the City Council say. The draft of the future ordinance, for its part, contemplates the extension of the concessions for two more years, but not everywhere: tables and chairs will be removed in the parking spaces of what are considered “saturated areas”, in the Special Acoustic Protection Zones (ZPAE) —only three, in the districts of Centro, Tetuan and Moncloa—, and in protected environmental zones.

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Ponzano street, the one that has seen the birth of the largest number of ‘covid terraces’ in Madrid, has all the requirements to be considered saturated. Going through it on a Friday night is an obstacle course. Official data say that of the four terraces that existed before the pandemic, it has risen to 47, but this newspaper has counted a total of 49, all but one located in parking spaces. “It’s hellish at night,” acknowledges a bartender at a Ponzano bar, who admits that many customers stay on the street “until one or two in the morning.” It is Friday at noon and he has just served Pepe, a lifelong customer, “a special cheese, from the menu, for wine”. “At this time people are coming from the neighborhood,” he adds. In their establishment, with so much work, they have hired one more waiter. According to the Hostelería Madrid association, which brings together businessmen in the sector, the covid terraces “guarantee the continuity of 948 SMEs” in the city.

But noise is not the only problem on the terraces. “With them, the number of supply trucks has also doubled, so there is more traffic and more jams, and double the waste, without us noticing that cleaning has been increased because everything is much dirtier,” he complains Pilar Rodríguez, member of the Neighborhood Association El Organillo de Chamberí and the SOS Chamberí movement. Since there are public records, in 2016, in Chamberí the number of terraces has doubled: from less than 400 to about 800. According to the calculations of neighborhood associations, today about 300 terraces are located on parking spaces.

The disappearance of parking spaces, which at first received the approval of public opinion for giving space to citizens, is a generalized protest in all neighborhoods where terraces have multiplied. “There are problems parking on the street in areas of old buildings, which often do not have underground parking,” protests Emilio Ruiz, from the Goya Dalí neighborhood association, in the Salamanca district, the second where terraces have grown the most in Madrid . “And we also continue to pay the same as before the pandemic to the City Council for places for residents,” he adds.

“If someone comes to see the city, they only see umbrellas”

Saturnino Vera, a member of the Cavas-La Latina Neighborhood Association, shares the arguments of his neighbors in Chamberí and Salamanca. The growth of the terraces has been such that “it is already impossible to walk as a couple and, let alone if you also carry a baby carriage,” he explains. And he also sees a problem in so-called “low-capacity tables,” high tables leaning against the wall that will continue to exist under the new ordinance. “Around them, one weekend at night there may be 10 or 12 people milling around, collapsing the pass”, says Vera. “And they create serious problems for the blind, because they have more difficulty identifying them,” adds Maite Gómez, from the Pasillo Verde Imperial neighborhood association in Arganzuela.

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The terraces have also engulfed the urban landscape: “If someone comes to see the city, they only see umbrellas,” says Saturnino Vera. The previous ordinance prohibited the covering of buildings of cultural interest, but the new norm has made the measure more flexible and now many businesses have special permits to install night tables or other types of structures. Félix Sáchez, from the Retiro Norte neighborhood association, has also noted this: “The Ibiza neighborhood has two of the few boulevards in Madrid; and the space where the neighborhood children learned to skate or ride a bike is now full of pedestals for the terraces ”.

When the current rules are broken, the municipal police do not give up. All the neighborhood associations consulted confirm that the police have confessed to them that they are “overwhelmed.” “You call them and either they don’t come or they are late,” confirms Emilio Ruiz, among others. Desperation, according to Maite Gómez, representative of the Arganzuela district, leads the neighbors to “throw water through the windows, and sometimes to throw the vase as well.”

The solution, according to residents and hoteliers, is to seek a balance that respects the rest of the citizens and that allows the continuity of bars and restaurants as well as the guarantee of enjoying safe leisure in the open air. Everything indicated that many details of the new ordinance would be refined this December 30 in the municipal plenary session (the definition of “saturated area”, for example, is still up for grabs). But the most certain is that they will be discussed later, at least when the sixth wave of coronavirus has been planted in the region.

But Félix Sánchez, a resident of Ibiza, doubts the reversal of the current measures. “The construction of night tables and durable structures makes us fear that many terraces have come to stay.” And he wonders: “If they are maintained for two years, until 2023, who in an election year will force the owners of bars and restaurants to give up their investments and their profits?”


elpais.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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