Can the Spanish learn to dine earlier to save restaurants from covid crisis?

A gigantic advertisement has appeared on the side of a building in downtown Madrid. It’s a tongue in cheek plea to the English to share, if not their fashion sense, then at least their dining habits.

Can the Spanish learn to dine earlier to save restaurants from covid crisis?
Photos: AFP

“Dear English people, We will accept socks worn with sandals if you teach us to eat at 8pm,” reads the Schweppes ad covering one side of building works on Calle de Alonso Cano in Madrid’s Chamberí district.

The message is a serious one: Can the Spanish learn to eat earlier in a bid to save the country’s struggling eateries?

With curfews in place forcing late-night loving Spaniards to head for home by midnight in the capital and the region of Valencia and as early as 10pm in other parts of Spain, many are choosing to completely forgo dinners out rather than shift their eating habits to earlier in the evening.

Instead of sitting down to dine at 10pm, restaurants across Spain are trying to encourage people to start at 8pm, a time which would still allow for a drawn-out sobremesa before the curfew kicks in.

The association Hostelería de España,  an association that represents bars, restaurants and hotels across Spain, has been running a campaign with the hashtags #AdelantaTuCena ('bring your evening meal forward') and #SalvemosLaHosteleria ('Save the Restaurant Industry') using a logo featuring a dome plate-cover bearing the time of 20.00 (8pm).

Some 270,000 establishments across Spain have joined the campaign as they struggle to survive. Those that were able to reopen after the strict lockdown of March and April were hit by a summer with few tourists followed by more restrictions, curfews and now closures as the second wave hit.

Regional authorities in Catalonia, Castilla y Leon,Cantabria, Galicia and Murcia have all taken the decision to close bars and restaurants except those providing take-away services as part of their measures to control a surge in infections.

This has provoked demonstrations across Spain by those working in the hospitality industry who fear for their livelihoods.

Restaurant workers take to the streets banging pot lids in a protest against closures in Barcelona. Photo: AFP


It is estimated that some 90,000 of Spain’s bars and restaurants will have closed permanently by the end of the year.

“We have had to reduce the number of tables (under Covid-19 safety measures), plus people are going out less, either because they are being careful or they have less disposable income,” explained Fernando Neira, a bar and restaurant owner in the Asturian coastal city of Gijon.

“But let’s be honest, people don’t want to become more “Nordic” in their dining habits. Nobody here eats at 8pm and that’s going to be hard to change overnight”.



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EXPLAINED: Spain’s new rules for unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Americans and Britons are now allowed to go on holiday to Spain. Here are the requirements, documentation needed and other important information they should know before booking their flights to Spain. 

EXPLAINED: Spain's new rules for unvaccinated non-EU tourists

What’s the latest?

Spain has opened up to unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen tourists for the first time in more than two years.

Previously it was not possible for third-country nationals to visit Spain for non-essential reasons such as a holiday, seeing family or spending time in a second home in Spain unless they were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (plus booster after 9 months) or recovered from the illness in the past six months. 

From May 21st 2022, unvaccinated tourists and other visitors from outside of the EU can travel to Spain if they show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, the Spanish government confirmed on Saturday. These are the same rules that apply to EU nationals and residents.

Spain’s testing requirements for non-EU/Schengen tourists apply to those aged 12 and older, children under that age are exempt from having to prove testing, vaccination or recovery.

What kind of Covid test do I need to get done to travel to Spain?

In scientific terms, Spain wants a diagnostic test that’s either a NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test, such as an RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, TMA) or a RAT (rapid antigen test).

In layman’s terms, that’s either a PCR test, which must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain, or an antigen test, 24 hours prior to departure.

Covid tests accepted are those authorised by the European Commission and must have been performed by healthcare professionals, therefore self-tests are not valid. 

What do I need to show to travel to Spain if I’m unvaccinated?

You need to show an official certificate or supporting document which shows the negative result of your Covid test. Your country may have a system in place that allows you to upload your negative result to an app. 

The document must be the original, in Spanish, English, French or German, and may be shown in paper or electronic format. If you can’t get it in these languages, it must be accompanied by a translation into Spanish by an official body.

The document that accredits the diagnostic test has to include the date the sample was taken, identification and contact details of the centre performing the analysis, technique used and negative result.

Spanish authorities recognise the UK’s NHS Covid Pass and others that fulfil the above criteria. 

Do I need to fill out a health control form?

This depends. Currently, 40 non-EU countries (and territories) have joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate system, based on EU equivalence decisions. 

That means that people from these nations who have a vaccination, testing or recovery certificate issued by the competent authorities of their country do not need to fill in Spain’s Travel Health form.

The countries with EU Digital Covid Certificate equivalence are Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Benin, Cabo Verde, Colombia, El Salvador, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Iceland, Jordan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), Uruguay, The Vatican and Vietnam.You can also double-check here in case more countries are added.

If your non-EU country isn’t on the list then you have to fill in the SPTH form and upload your test certificate, which gives you a QR Code you’ll be asked for at the airport. 

READ MORE: A step-by-step guide on how to fill out Spain’s Health Control Form

Do I have to wear a mask on the plane?

Yes, you will most likely be required to wear a mask on the planes to and from Spain, although you don’t have to wear one inside Spanish airports anymore.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s mask rules for travel?

Is there any other travel rule I need to know about?

If you’re not an EU citizen or resident, then you should check if you require a Schengen visa to travel to Spain, as this will depend on your nationality.

Keep in mind that you will also have to abide by other Schengen rules, such as not being able to spend more than 90 out of 180 days in Spain and other Schengen countries.

Does Spain still have domestic Covid-19 rules?

Spain has lifted the vast majority of its Covid-19 rules, so there are no longer curfews, forced closures, limits on the number of people per shop or restaurant or Covid pass requirements to gain entry to buildings. 

Masks are no longer required outdoors and there is no face covering mandate for the majority of indoor public settings, except for on public transport, in hospitals, pharmacies, other health clinics and care homes.

READ MORE: What happens when tourists get Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain?