Adios, Movida: the cri­sis killing Madrid’s nightlife

The China Post - - LIFE - BY ELODIE CUZIN

Madrid is famed world­wide for its wild nightlife — but lo­cals say re­ces­sion, un­em­ploy­ment and higher sales tax are chang­ing par­ty­ing habits in the Span­ish cap­i­tal.

“There’s no denying the cri­sis. It af­fects the whole coun­try, and Madrid’s bars and night­clubs are no ex­cep­tion,” said Dani Marin, joint owner of Costello, one of the city cen­ter’s hun­dreds of drink­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

On a Fri­day night around Christ­mas, its base­ment throbs with live rock mu­sic, while up- stairs drinkers chat lean­ing on the bar to the mel­lower rhythms of a DJ.

It is a typ­i­cal bar scene in a coun­try de­voted to par­ty­ing out on the town — but peo­ple in the business say Spa­niards are spend­ing less on that pas­time.

“Con­sump­tion has fallen a lot,” said Marin. “Some­times the bar still gets as busy and lively as it was six years ago, but over­all our rev­enues are down by about half.”

After the death of long­time dic­ta­tor Francisco Franco in 1975 the Span­ish cap­i­tal re­sponded to the coun­try’s new­found free­dom with an ex­plo­sion in cre­ativ­ity in the­atre, mu­sic and nightlife dubbed “La Movida Madrilena,” which loosely trans­lates as the Madrid scene.

Times have changed, how­ever. The eco­nomic cri­sis that erupted in 2008 due to the col­lapse of a decade-long prop­erty bub­ble al­tered things.

“Madrid used to be a city like Berlin or London are now, full of op­por­tu­ni­ties. It used to have more on of­fer,” said one bar-goer, Juan Canadas, strolling in Madrid’s trendy Malasana dis­trict. “It has lost a bit of its magic.”

The cri­sis drove up un­em­ploy­ment to a cur­rent rate of 24 per­cent and prompted tough eco­nomic aus­ter­ity mea­sures by the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

Th­ese in­cluded rais­ing sales tax from eight to 21 per­cent in 2012, which has cramped con­sump­tion.

“I love Madrid. At our age you find ev­ery­thing you want,” said another fes­tive lo­cal, Quiara Lopez, a stu­dent of 20, out for a night on the town with a friend.

“You have all kinds of places to go and you can do what you want. But you have to watch what you spend.”

Shorter Week­ends

With 75,000 peo­ple work­ing in them, Madrid’s bars, casi­nos, the­atres, restau­rants and night­clubs are cru­cial for the re­gion.

They gen­er­ate up to 7.5 bil­lion euros (US$9.1 bil­lion) in rev­enues a year, about 4.7 per­cent of the re­gion’s econ­omy, ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates.

The de­cline in nightlife has erased nearly one per­cent­age point from the re­gion’s out­put, said Vi­cente Pizcueta, spokesman for a Madrid leisure business as­so­ci­a­tion.

The drop in business is strik­ing.

“Thurs­day used to be like part of the week­end,” with the bars packed, said Marin. “Now it is just another day of the week. That is the most re­mark­able change we have seen.”

Madrid city hall in­sists it is work­ing to support restau­rants and bars, which it says are two of its main tourist draws.

With fewer drinkers com­ing out to play, bar own­ers are adapt­ing to sur­vive.

“We have been rein­vent­ing our­selves, do­ing all sorts of things,” Ger­man Hughes, man­ager of the La Palma cafe, which has been open for 20 years.

“We used to have three con­certs here a week. Now we have five, plus two book launches and a play. We are putting on more ac­tiv­i­ties so that peo­ple have more in­cen­tives to come.”

After six hard years, fig­ures sug­gest that con­sumer spend­ing is slowly tak­ing off again in Spain. As the econ­omy grad­u­ally heats back up, bar own­ers hope this city’s nightlife will do the same.

“Madrid has changed enor­mously since the Movida,” said Hughes. “But we who work in nightlife are con­tin­u­ing to fight. We con­tinue to be­lieve that like ev­ery­thing in life, this is part of a cy­cle that soon will turn bet­ter.”

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