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Spanish government to reduce restaurant opening hours

Published:  15 March, 2024

The Spanish government has announced its intention to enforce a 35-hour working week, to align itself with the rest of Europe and reduce restaurant opening hours.

Bars and restaurants in Spain frequently stay open beyond 1am, something Yolanda Díaz, the deputy prime minister and labour minister, has described as ‘madness’.

“A country that has its restaurants open at one in the morning is not reasonable. It is crazy to try to continue extending hours until I don’t know what time,” Díaz told Spain’s congress earlier this week.

Spanish drinks producers will be hoping that reduced operating hours in hospitality don’t harm domestic revenues. For many tourists, especially those from Britain, Spain’s closing hours are a positive point of difference from other destinations.

Rodolfo Bastida Caro, wine director, Zamora company told Harpers: “If we want to continue to attract a diverse range of consumers then we must be flexible with our opening hours. I am concerned that restricted hours will affect us and lower wine consumption rates.” 

The proposed changes would see Spain’s closing times fall in line with other European countries including France, which enforced a 35-hour workweek in 2000 under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's plural left government.

Despite this, France and particularly Paris is still synonymous with a vibrant nightlife. However, some sections of the Spanish hospitality sector are less buoyant about the proposed changes.

A spokesperson for the Hospitality of Spain group said the proposal was detrimental to an established Spanish institution.

“The minister of Labour wants to turn us into a sad and grey country in Eastern Europe where everything is closed,” José Luis Yzuel said.

“Why do we have to be as bland as the Europeans when we are their envy in hospitality?”

Meanwhile, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the president of the Community of Madrid, said on X (formerly Twitter): “Spain has the best nightlife in the world, with streets full of life and freedom. And that also provides jobs.

“They want us puritans, materialists, socialists, without soul, without light and without restaurants because they feel like it. Bored and at home.”

Remi Sanz, communications director for Araex, one of the biggest premium producers in Spain, told Harpers: “Of course we want all workers and employees to enjoy their free time and work the number of hours they need to do (not more, not less), but I think lunch and dinner schedule in Spain is different compared to the rest of Europe.”

Sanz added that the changes would have a 'modest' impact on producers.

“Wine consumption takes place earlier than midnight. Probably the spirits industry will be more affected than the wines, as the consumption of this product happens earlier.”

According to Spanish government figures, the hospitality sector created 29,000 jobs in February alone, more than any other sector. There were 104,000 new jobs created last month in Spain, the best February for overall employment since 2007.

Spain’s tourism sector is also growing. In January, a record of 4.8m international visitors entered the country, contributing €6.55bn to the economy, a quarter more than in the same month last year.

Sanz believes Spain's opening hours are a positive point of difference from other European countries.

“This is our way of life, and this is something that makes a difference. If you want to have dinner at 8, you can do it, but if you want to enjoy it at 10.30pm, you also can, so having the possibility of not being constrained to a fix schedule I think it´s a good thing,” Sanz added.

Díaz and a team of 60 people are said to be formulating a more rational working schedule for Spanish hospitality, highlighting the disparity in operating times with the rest of Europe.