Coronavirus: British tourists ‘scared’ of Catalonia say struggling bar owners

There’s no mistaking who the Four Candles bar in the Catalonian resort of Lloret De Mar caters to.

Full English, fish and chips, curry on the menu. And this time last year the place would have been heaving from early morning. Not this year.

Some days recently, says owner Mick Sleigh, they had no one in. When we visited just before lunchtime the tables were empty.

And there’s one reason Mick says Britons are staying away – COVID-19.

He tells me that people hear Catalonia is associated with new outbreaks of the virus and they are scared to come, even though this resort has barely been touched by the virus.

Mick and his girlfriend, Julie, had thought this would be when their business took off.

They bought it a year ago, worked 16 and more hours a day. Everyone knows the first year in business is always the hardest.

Then COVID and the nationwide lockdown hit Spain. They had to close – but the rent and the bills still had to be paid.

The lifting of the restrictions last month was a moment of optimism, but then Catalonia was hit by new outbreaks and the usually reliably UK tourist stream largely dried up.

As we finish talking we hear welcome accents on the terrace outside. A group of visitors has searched out the Four Candles for its fare.

Matthew Dixon from the northwest of England – here to celebrate his 50th birthday – orders a fry up.

I ask him if he was worried about coming to the region and he acknowledges he was a bit.

But then, he says he feels safer here than in the UK.

The wearing of masks is mandatory in Catalonia and sanitiser is on hand at the entrance to restaurants and bars.

His friend, Martin Lomax, agrees. He says precautions are taken more seriously here. The masks only come off when they are sitting down to eat or drink.

Lloret De Mar is missing the Brits.

Many bars and clubs catering to the large number of young travellers who usually come here from the UK each summer are closed.

When we walk on the beach all we hear are Spanish, French and German voices.

Those visitors are becoming increasingly important with the absence of of visitors from the UK. And so too are the locals.

Martin Sleigh says the Four Candles is now looking to woo in more residents. It’s the only way to survive.

He says Catalans who recently tried good old fashioned battered fish and homemade chips were “pleasantly surprised”.

He’s hoping they’ll develop a long-term taste for all things British.

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