A Madrid resident must pay out €150 in a fine for having reserved a spot on the El Cura beach of Torrevieja with an umbrella, in the first penalty of its kind in Spain.
The man from Fuenlabrada, within the Madrid metropolitan area, had visited the seaside city in September of last year and had set up an umbrella very early in the morning to save his spot, Spanish media reported this week.
But this seemingly typical beach-going behaviour was actually in violation of a local ordinance that aims to prevent disruption of early morning beach cleaning, as well as people claiming public space when they're not physically present.
Between 3am and 8am, the use of ‘beach furniture' like umbrellas, seats or towels to reserve space is prohibited.
This is the first time, however, that the ordinance has been enforced.
Apparently beach monitors had walked by the umbrella and seeing that no one was by it, removed the umbrella and wrote out the fine.
But the man argued that he had simply gone for a swim, leaving his umbrella behind and the monitors had taken advantage of the fact that he had stepped away momentarily.
The local government didn't see it that way, and the counselor for beaches of Torrevieja, Javier Manzanares, told TV programme Hoy por Hoy on Thursday that the city's intention was to "prevent the private use of beaches".
"People who live in Torrevieja know that there are people who come at 5.30am, place their umbrella and their things right at the front of the beach and then leave," the counselor told news agency EFE.
The city's website states that it takes its beach policies very seriously and promises to "monitor all activities taking place on the beaches… ensuring the future development and improvement of the environmental quality of the beaches".