Cafés in Spain on war footing against remote workers hogging space

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Cafés in Spain on war footing against remote workers hogging space
Photo: On Shot/Pexels.

Bars and cafés in Valencia, Santiago and Barcelona have started to take action against lingering remote workers and digital nomads by cutting off the Wi-Fi during peak hours, with some even banning remote working on their premises.


Increasingly in recent years, a trend has emerged: someone arrives in a café, orders a coffee, opens his or her laptop and then spends the whole day working without buying anything else.

For many digital nomads and remote workers, it seems spending a couple of euros on a coffee is a fair price for occupying a table for an entire morning or afternoon.


Some might say they are contributing to the local economy and supporting local businesses, but clearly, for a small business owner this isn't a profitable arrangement, and many are now fighting back.

In Valencia, posters have appeared at some cafés banning remote working during peak hours: 8.30 to 12.30.

One Valencia café owner told La Vanguardia: "Our place is small and between 10 and 11.30 in the morning it's impossible, we need all the tables."

Raquel Llanes, boss at the Departure Café in the Raval area of Barcelona, explained to Barcelona Secreta that the situation has gotten out of control: "We've had customers who have ordered an espresso and sat for eight hours, people who have asked us to turn the music down so they could have meetings, customers who took out their Tupperware to eat... At first we adapted the space with sockets and to work, but after two years we realised that the numbers weren't working out.”

Some have opted for less friendly, but equally effective methods: turning off the Wi-Fi network of the premises during peak hours.


"The owner has got rid of the Wi-Fi to avoid precisely these situations. People sat down and didn't leave," one waitress told La Vanguardia.

Similar sentiments have arisen in the Galician city of Santiago, where one café owner told La Voz de Galicia: "We prefer them not to come. If someone comes in and opens a laptop we don't tell them anything, but if they've been there for a long time and we need space for a group, we ask them to please move". 

When a remote worker in Valencia posted a negative comment about a café where the owner had asked him to leave, their reply went viral, as they stated "we can't lose regular customers so that you can work". 

Remote working (teletrabajo in Spanish) has exploded in popularity in Spain in recent years, particularly in the post-pandemic period, and often the people taking advantage of this flexibility are foreign digital nomads and remote workers. Many of them choose to work from local bars and cafés.

It should be said that not all people working remotely in Spain are foreigners. Many Spaniards also have flexible or remote working arrangements and will no doubt occasionally work in a local bar or café. Equally, many digital nomads take advantage of the abundance of ‘co-working’ spaces popping up around Spain, which are exactly for this purpose.

There are even café owners who promote the 'work friendly' environment as a means of establishing a loyal customer base.

Other hospitality businesses have preferred to allocate an area for remote working while keeping the bar area and certain tables for regular customers who stop by for a quick bite or coffee. 

READ ALSO: The best co-working spaces for digital nomads in Spain

The row over remote working in traditional Spanish bars and cafés is yet another chapter in the current debate over the influence mass tourism and gentrification is having on Spaniards' standard of living. 

In the increasingly online, post-pandemic world, the change has been stark in some parts of Spain. Take a stroll through the Raval or L'Eixample neighbourhoods of Barcelona, or the Ruzafa and El Cabanyal areas of Valencia in 2024, and you're likely to see buildings plastered in Airbnb lockboxes and possibly even hear more fluent, non-native English than you do Spanish in certain parts.

Tourists and wealthy remote workers, the logic goes, visit or move to a trendy city they've seen on an international ranking, say Málaga or Valencia, which causes rents to rise because landlords in the area convert their properties into short-term tourist rental accommodation to meet the growing demand, which in turn turfs out locals or shuts down local businesses. 




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