By Humphrey Carter

THE Palma Hotel Federation has had enough of the weekend binge drinking street parties known as “botellon” along the Paseo Maritimo and the lack of action being taken by Palma City Council to crackdown on the social phenomena which has drawn thousands of complaints from the hotel sector, local residents and holiday makers staying in the four and five star hotels along the sea front.

The first rumblings of discontent in the hotel sector were felt last week when hoteliers along the sea front, many of which are some of the island's most famous and luxurious establishments, threatened to close unless the council took swift and direct action. Yesterday, the Palma Hotel Federation issued a statement publicly announcing its “indignation” over the city council's lack of action and warned that unless the Mayor, Aina Calvo, addresses the growing problem, a wave of protests by hoteliers, local residents and even tourists may well be organised over the summer.

In the statement, the federation underlined the fact that it, yacht owners, local businesses and the Son Armadams Residents' Association have been fighting for the past ten years to have the Paseo Maritimo binge drinking sessions, which according to the federation have been getting worse year after year, banned. “It is not just a small handful of hoteliers who are outraged by the botellon and the lack of interest from City Hall but all of the city's business sector,” the federation said in its statement.

According to the federation, the situation has escalated to such an extent that there are residents who no longer want to live in the area and tourists who refuse to go out for a stroll along the sea front.

There has also been a marked increase in complaints from hotel clients about the noise and mess left by the revelers.
This week, Palma's hoteliers are going to be holding a round of meetings with various resident and commercial associations to organise the protests. Mayor Aina Calvo did make cracking down on the botellon one of her principal objectives when she came to power but the failure of the governing coalition to agree on any effective measures means that nothing has been done.

However, in response to the hoteliers' threats of closing and protesting, it appears that the Mayor has been forced to take action and one of the ideas on the table is to prohibit large gatherings of people along the Paseo Maritimo between the hours of 10pm and 8am.

However, some sections of the left-wing coalition claim that any such legislation will just move the botellon to another location.
Be that the case, at least Palma's prestigious sea front will be clean and calm and wealthy tourists staying in the luxury hotels and owners of the yachts moored along the promenade will be able to relax and enjoy their holiday or free time.

Over the past few years, there has been talk on the council of setting up a special area for botellon on the weekends, although now the summer is here, the Palma Hotel Federation stressed yesterday that the binge drinking is beginning to take place every night.

One location was the huge car park at the Ono Stadium which is not used for much of the summer - but little came of the proposal.
One of the biggest problems is that drinking in the street is not illegal in Palma.
There are public order behaviour and noisesregulations but, in order to prohibit the botellon, new legislation banning drinking in public will have to be passed by Palma City Council.

However, in Seville and Santander, where botellon was also becoming a major problem, the local council took proactive action and introduced new regulations governing drinking in the street.

What the hoteliers, the business sector and residents are asking themselves if other parts of Spain can combat binge drinking in the streets, why can not Palma?

Tourist industry sources in Palma said yesterday that many of the hotels along the Paseo Maritimo are the pillars of the city's tourist industry. “They attract big spending holiday makers, many of them regular visitors to the island, and they are also establishments for business people and conventions. “If the council does not stop the botellon, we will begin to lose these wealthy clients because the binge drinking is doing the city's image extreme damage at a time when we are working hard at trying to promote the capital as a top Europe city break and business destination.” The Son Armadams Residents' Association has already collected over 3'000 signatures backing the campaign to ban the botellon but until the coalition can agree on what action to take, it will have a battle on its hands.


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