Party over: Catalonia bans happy hour

Crackdown could soon be nationwide in battle to curb youth drinking

The Catalan government has some sobering news for stag party-goers, football fans and other British holidaymakers who dream of cheap drinks on the beach: it has outlawed "happy hour" and other special offers that entice thirsty tourists to the Costa Brava and Barcelona.

The cocktail crackdown is part of a vast and surprisingly uncontroversial public health law which was passed unanimously this week by the Catalan regional parliament.

The national Health Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, announced yesterday that she would consider introducing a similar ban nationwide.

The aim of the prohibition is to curb youth alcohol consumption. It is one of many preventive health measures outlined in the new law which also makes provisions for government subsidies to help people quit smoking.

"We must protect citizens and we want to impede... the uncontrolled consumption of alcohol," the director of Catalonia's public health, Antoni Plasencia, said.

It is not clear how the campaign against cheap cocktails will be enforced. But the offending practices are strictly defined. They include promotional offers, prizes, lotteries, promotional parties and deals such as "all you can drink", "two drinks for the price of one" and the like. Any establishment defying the ban could be fined between €3,000 and €10,000 (£2,750 and £9,200).

The measure will surely sit like a watered-down Mojito with the throngs of British holidaymakers who flock to Barcelona, Girona and Sitges for wild weekend getaways.

A war on discount drinks may seem unlikely in a country like Spain, where a generous glass of Rioja wine is often cheaper than bottled water and where alcohol is an important element of traditional outdoor festivals, from the running of the bulls in Pamplona to the carnival of Cadiz.

But the prohibition is in keeping with efforts throughout Spain to stamp out outdoor drinking jamborees known as botellones, in which university students crowd public squares and drink themselves stupid, disturbing the peace.

The new law is also supported by many bars, restaurants, discos and other nightclubs in the region. They say the cheap promotions lower the standards of their trade.

"The spirit of the happy hour is not what we want for our sector," said Gloria Cabrera, from the Catalan Federation of Nightclubs.

"It is bad for our business to give away drinks. We want to offer quality and attract quality clients. We believe in responsible consumption." While the Catalan legislation ostensibly targets Spaniards, many of the bars and discos that depend on these promotional gimmicks appeal to foreigners, Ms Cabrera said.

"Abroad people think of Spaniards as partying with the tambourine, but in reality, consumption by Spaniards is more social, more rational, more about having fun than getting drunk than it is in other countries." The average Spaniard had only 1.5 drinks during a night out clubbing, she said.

It is not surprising that Catalonia should lead Spain in devising such sobering legislation. Various cities and seaside towns in the region have tried to impose greater decorum on the rowdy masses.

Barcelona passed an anti-nuisance ordinance in 2006 that made behaviour associated with inebriated football fans a civil offence. Under that law, anyone caught urinating on doorsteps, drinking beer in the street, or shouting in a quiet neighbourhood could be fined up to €1,500.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Coordinator

£18000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Reside...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue