They have gone from initial “shock” to outrage. Chefs, waiters, sommeliers, hoteliers, producers, winemakers and all those who make up the world of gastronomy in Spain are on the warpath because they feel “unprotected” and “abandoned”.
Workers affected by ERTE without receiving benefits, unclear rules that have triggered consultations to labor consultancies and lack of support measures such as those adopted in other European countries -Germany has lowered the VAT on hospitality from 19 to 7% – have filled the patience of a sector that, for the most part, keeps the shutter down and doubts when it will be able to lift it.
They remember that “they never” have asked for aid or subsidies because they are based on “the effort of thousands of self-employed people,” but now they feel “abandoned,” Pedro Sánchez, chef and owner of Bagá, with a Michelin star in Jaén, tells Efe, and member of the leading group of Hermandad Gastró, an association born in the pandemic that unites the different branches of gastronomy.
“We live in a state of anxiety and insecurity. We need positive gestures that help us, as has been done in most of Europe, from June 30”, the date on which the ERTE and its social security exemptions conclude. The hospitality industry demands its extension as a minimum, and awaiting the evolution of the pandemic, as of December 31, 2020.
Sánchez refers not only to bars, restaurants and cafes, but also to “farmers, gardeners, ranchers, fishermen, cheesemakers, winemakers and all those who make up such an important sector for the country”, since it accounts for 33% of GDP and supports 4 million workers.
Gastronomy, he recalls, is one of the aspects most valued by international tourism and one of the main reasons why Spain is visited, which is why it calls on the administrations to “defend it, betting on quality”. Until now, he regrets, the measures taken “lead more to disappearance”.
Although they are aware of the health emergency and understand that “we are all in a difficult situation and there are no funds for everyone”, they remember that “it is not the first time that hospitality has helped to bring the country out of an economic crisis” and, furthermore, in situations such as the one caused by COVID-19, it has turned to working to feed toilets and people without resources.
“In Hermandad Gastró, the members (more than 1,300) are raising the tone, the unrest is ‘growing’ and mobilizations are being considered,” he points out.
For Xanty Elías, with a Michelin star in Acánthum (Huelva) and a member of the board of Euro-Toques, which integrates almost a thousand professional chefs, the measures taken, including so far, for example, the defendant microcredits nor exemptions in rents, are “patches that weaken the morale and strength of the sector.”
“Cooks talk every day and live in uncertainty. We are crazy to return to work, but the fiscal situation slows us down. There is anger and outrage,” Efe acknowledges, especially when you see the behavior of countries like Germany, France and Italy towards catering and producers.
“The furnaces of anger begin to light, the pot begins to heat up and when it bursts … And the thing that the Government has proposed are not solutions; it has to support a base sector of the Spain Brand,” he adds.
“We must hit the table already,” says Francis Paniego, with two Michelin stars at the Portal del Echaurren (Ezcaray, La Rioja), who thanks, however, the “demanding” work in defense of the sector developed by the Business organization Hospitality of Spain.
Until now, he adds, they have been “very cautious” because they are “very clear” that “health care comes first”. “But I am afraid we were the first to close, even before the state of alarm, and we will be the last to open.”
“Uncertainty” is the word that appears in all conversations with colleagues by profession, to which “impotence” and “rage” are often added because they, the main supporter of a quality primary sector betting on small producers in the vicinity and tourist asset, they feel “unprotected”.