Large crowds of tourists packing out Spanish bars in the summer is hardly a surprising phenomenon. But in the elegant coastal resort of San Sebastian, punters fill the Basque city’s taverns in record numbers every Thursday. And perhaps even more unusually, most of them are locals.
The reason is the roaring success of a new special offer. On one night a week only, a pintxo (a solid Basque meat, omelette or fish tapas) and a pote (a glass of wine, beer or a soft drink) can be yours for just €1.50 to €2 when the normal price is double that.
“It started when a local vineyard gave away a few boxes of promotional wine and I gave any - body who ordered a glass a free pintxo ,” explains Juan Aizpuru owner of the Ipotx bar. Then the wine ran out with a plethora of fresh clients asking for the bargain pote-pintxo offer.
A few months later, the bar reintroduced the offer with other wines as a once-weekly special – and others in the same San Sebastian area, Gros, quickly realised how it was drawing in the crowds.
So now every Thursday, San Sebastian’s bars are heaving, with a high percentage of the clientele consisting of young locals who otherwise couldn’t afford the bar tabs in what is reputedly one of Spain’s most expensive cities.
Bar owners and tourist guides are at pains to point out that the quality of the tapas is exactly the same as any other night – just a lot cheaper.
“The pintxos that are most popular are the special meatballs and the croquettes, we make 500 for one evening and they disappear in an hour and a half,” says Juan Aizpuru.