From the Café Central, one of Spain’s best-known jazz bars, to the teddy bears and train sets on sale at Así, a popular toyshop on Madrid’s central Gran Via boulevard, and for thousands of other Spanish small businesses 2015 is anything but welcome. Instead, closure looms.
The culprit for their sudden mass demise is a curious piece of Spanish commercial legislation, which based certain small business rents on their 1994 levels and only permitted inflation-linked rises thereafter. But the legislation reached its expired on New Year's Eve, and as a result some 19,000 small businesses are battling rapidly soaring rents.
Five to 10-fold increases are not uncommon, and in Madrid’s well-heeled Calle Serrano street, some rates are reportedly up from €1,500 to €30,000 (£23,000) a month.
The crippling rise will claim many victims. Such as the Así toyshop, run by four generations of the Eznarriaga family and set to close on 15 January. Barcelona music shop Musical Emporium on Las Ramblas folded on 6 January and the popular Café Central jazz bar is due to follow shortly.
Madrid and other Spanish cities are unusual in that large chains of retailers are rare and small independent businesses occupy prime areas. Those smaller, less well-known cafés, shops and bars could now suddenly disappear taking with them the individual flair that separates them from international chains. As for their owners, Spain’s already over-long dole queues beckon.
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