The anger and frustration in the hospitality industry due to their ongoing closure in the Valencian Community has led several associations representing the sector to protest. So much so, that some have already announced that they will re-open their doors next Tuesday, 16 February, as a measure of protest against the closure, and its subsequent extension, decreed by the Generalitat.
They have now been warned that such a move could lead to significant financial penalties, of up to 60,000 euros, in addition to the closure of the business for up to three years in case of their non-compliance.
For the moment, however, the Association of Hoteliers in the province of Castellón (Ashocas), who are calling for bars and restaurants to reopen on Tuesday, remains firm, and they are not alone with the move now endorsed by many other hoteliers across the Valencian Community, from Sagunt, Llíria, Elda and Petrer.
According to the president of Ashocas, Álvaro Amores, there are “more than 3,500 hoteliers from all over the Region” who are planning to reopen on that day. And they are not afraid of possible retaliation from the authorities. “We will open with all the consequences”, says Amores.
At this time, the hospitality industry can only offer delivery or take away service, with consumption on the premises being totally prohibited, so opening itself would not pose a problem if it were done for that purpose. Failure to comply with the restriction set by the Generalitat Valenciana would occur, however, in the event of them choosing to serve customers at tables, both indoors and on the terraces.
Such measures would run the risk of businesses being sanctioned by the Valencian administration for non-compliance with the measures against covid.
Minor infringements, such as non-compliance with capacity limits, when it involves less than 15 people, will be penalised with a warning or a fine of 60 to 600 euros. Similarly, the lack of a mask in would incur a fine of 100 euros.
In the event of a more serious infraction, such as breaching the capacity limits by between 15 and 150 people or using the establishment for activities that are not allowed, the punishment would be a fine of 601 to 30,000 euros, rising to 300,000 euros, and the suspension of the activity for a maximum period of six months.
In the case of even more severe offences, a capacity of more than 150 people, the penalties would be 30,001 to 60,000 euros, up to 600,000 euros, as well as the closure of the premises for a maximum period of three years to ten years.
In addition, not only will the owners of the establishments be responsible, but also “their customers, who will be jointly liable when, by action or omission, they allow or abet such infractions,” says the decree, which states that when the offender is a minor, “parents, guardians or legal guardians will be responsible.”
In announcing the extension of the restrictions in the Valencian autonomy, the president, Ximo Puig, advocated dialogue with the hotel industry, who he asked not to take “shortcuts to legality”.
“The Valencian Community has tried to serve the general interests of all the people, including the hotel industry, but now is not the time to lower our guard that would give rise to an even more difficult situation,” he said.
The Community Hospitality and Leisure Business Coordinator, however, considers that breaking the rules is the not the best way to defend our rights. “We understand the despair and indignation with which SMEs face these erratic actions by the Generalitat Valenciana, but we do not currently contemplate unilateral openings that cause greater tension and a climate of confrontation and may cause more economic problems for the hoteliers as a consequence of the sanctioning regime “, they said.