Victor Sánchez hit the headlines last month as one of the organisers of La Resistencia, or Resistencia Balear, which organised three protests against the Balearic government closure of hospitality and other businesses.
However, the cost of mounting fines he is waiting to be served for having been part of staging protests which allegedly broke Covid rules and the massive loss in revenue incurred by having struggled to have kept two restaurants open, he has closed all his business interests down and is now joining the Junts Sumam, a political party to fight for the rights of employers, employees and to protect the future of the hostelry and tourism sectors.
Victor decided to close his small restaurant in Inca in January of last year.
“We saw what was happening with the virus overseas and could see the writing on the wall. It was a small establishment so I decided to cut my loses and close.
“But, in Palma, where I owned the As de Tablas restaurant in S’Escorxador, I employed a total of 22 staff, including myself, and last week I had no choice but to close and put the place up for lease.
“Since last April, as a result of the Covid restrictions we tried to struggle on but, as the Balearic government gradually stepped up restrictions and made life for the hosterly sector, never mind the tourist industry at large, increasingly difficult and costly, we slowly shrunk in size to the point that there were just two of us trying to keep the business afloat with take aways.
“And, obviously, due to the Covid restrictions on bars and restaurants, my income disappeared and we, like everyone else in the industry, got no help what so ever from the local authorities. Some minor financial aid packages were made available but establishments could only apply if they had no outstanding debts, so that rules out nearly all of us because we’ve had to incur mounting debts ever since the pandemic hit.
“So, apart from watching my income shrivel up and business fall off the cliff, I, like all the others in my position, have had to continue paying the rates and social security for staff, which in my case was between 400 and 800 euros per employee depending on whether they were on a full time or part time contract.
“And, even with the business closed and up for lease, I am still having to pay the rates which went up on January 20! We are being strangled by the local government and unless something gives, many of us are in danger of dying, disappearing for ever.How can that be allowed to happen in an island, a city, which depends nearly 100 percent on tourism?
“That is why I got involved in organising La Resistencia and staging the protests which were not only supported by people from all nationalities, the hostelry industry is an international sector on the island, other businesses which have been crippled by the central and local government’s restrictions and lack of aid joined the cause.
“But, although I’ve not been officially informed, I gather from what the central government delegate in the Balearics has told the local media, I’m in line to be served fines totally around 300,000 euros. Obviously I am in no position to pay them, I have to cover the ongoing costs of my closed businesses and live - I’m going to have to look for a new job to start with - so when the fines do finally turn up, I shall hand them over to my lawyer and contest then in the courts. I neither have the finance not the inclination to pay them,” Victor said. “It’s been interesting to see the court ruling in the Basque Country which has allowed bars and restaurants to reopen, overturning the restrictions enforced by the regional government, hopefully a similar ruling will be made here in the Balearics.
“As a business owner it is my constitutional right to open if I want and trying to enforce restrictions to prevent us from opening with heavy fines is not the right way of going about things. We’re not criminals, we’re the very heartbeat of the tourist industry and people’s lives in general.
“The trouble is, especially in Palma, the local council, with the support of the Balearic government, has been chopping away at the hostelry sector long before the outbreak of Covid and the pandemic has given them the excuse to wield the axed even more. The council started reducing terrace sizes and capacity and drawing yellow lines outside our establishments to ensure to operated within our permitted zones a few years ago. There’s been a movement to turn Palma into a sleeping city, where restaurants have to take last orders at 22.00, be closed by 22.30 so that local residents can enjoy a quite life - there’s a definate anti-tourism feeling in government. But, the island depends on tourism and instead of trying to deter it, we should look back at the 70s and 80s and how we treated foreign visitors. We need to be welcoming them back with open arms, letting off fireworks.
“And, if Palma is going to emerge from the pandemic and have a thriving economy, it needs tourism and the hostelry sector is at the heart of that.
“Millions of people come to Palma and Mallorca for the gastonomy, just like they visit other cities around Spain and the world. We have some excellent bars and restaurants, award winners with international fame.
“What is more, if you’re out shopping or strolling around the city, the chances of stopping for a drink and maybe some tapas and extremely high, it’s part of our Mediterranean culture, it’s part of who we are and what we do - so why are we facing the threat of heavy fines for trying to live a normal life.
“Obviously, we’ve got to be careful, but what we can’t afford to do is hinge everything on the vaccine, especially if it’s going to take so long to roll out. The sooner we’re all vaccinated, the better, but if it’s going to take time then the government, in accordance with the hostelry and tourism sectors, needs to start taking a much more professional and serious attitude to the problem and introduce some proactive solutions.
“We can’t afford to have another year like 2020, the island will go bust. Not only will local business people be unable to reopen, once a potential foreign investor has looked at all the paperwork involved with opening a new businesses in the hostelry sector and the costs, they will simply look elsewhere.
“With the Junts Sumam political party, we intend to take the very best from the left and the right, we’re going be a party of the centre and a party of the people for the people.
“It will take time, but we are creating a solid and professional team - we’re open to anyone and everyone who wishes to get involved.
“We want what everybody wants, a clean and beautiful Palma which is alive, open all hours, like city destinations around the globe, where all neighbourhoods can be visited and enjoyed.
“We want to see the introduction of fair financial aid packages and incentives for hostelry and tourism at large - we need to have a clear road map for the future and we all need to start now before it’s too late and Mallorca dies.”