It’s midnight, and Lorena is still dancing and drinking in the Paseo del Born in Barcelona. She had gone out to eat with her colleagues from a technology company and is having some beers. “This is where the party is,” she says with a smile while three different portable speakers blast out music, and tourists shout drunkenly on the street.
The location had been chosen once more for botellones, as street-drinking parties are known in Spain, despite the municipal order that bans the consumption of alcohol outside and the fact that such activities breach Covid-19 restrictions on social distancing. What’s more, since Friday, there has been a new curfew in place between 1 and 6am.
The botellón continues until the officers are right on top of the people partying
The measure, introduced by the regional government, affects 161 municipalities in the region and has been given the necessary approval by the regional High Court. On Friday, the municipal police had to move on as many as 4,350 people who were ignoring the curfew and were still drinking and partying despite the new restrictions.
For the majority of the participants in these parties – nearly all of them tourists – they are uninterested in the curfew and carry on dancing and drinking in the street until they are forced to move on by the police. The botellón continues until the officers are right on top of the people partying.
As was the case for the previous curfew, introduced while Spain was under a state of alarm, the fines for non-compliance run from €300 to €6,000. But in the early hours of Saturday morning, there are barely any people being written up – 45 across the entire region – and the authorities go no further than dispersing the partygoers, many of whom are intoxicated after several hours of drinking in the street.
“There are a lot of people in the Paseo del Born, but it is not the same as the number of people at botellones in recent weeks,” explains a youngster in a yellow jacket carrying the logo of Barcelona City Hall. “It’s because the police came here in the afternoon and they’ve been here since then. People are less likely to congregate when they see them.” The young man explains that he is from a company that has been hired by City Hall. “We try to keep them quiet,” he says. “We do it in a friendly way and then we give them these stickers,” he explains, showing a badge with the word “respect” and a logo of a pair of lips and a raised finger calling for quiet. “They don’t usually take much notice, but we try,” says his colleague with a smile. A little after 1am, the regional and the local police are combing the Paseo del Born in vans and on foot, and are dispersing the assembled people.
The other place where people congregate is on the beaches of Barceloneta. In particular, crowds form on Sant Miquel, where hundreds of people dance and drink. The street sellers are raking it in by selling cans of drink, bottles of whisky and sandwiches. The majority of the participants are French, German, Italian and Dutch. All of them are young, and very few are wearing masks. “In the hotel, they told us that we have to return before 1am,” a tourist from the Netherlands explains – he is perhaps one of the few who knows that there is a curfew in place.
By 1am there should be no one left on the street, but the beach continues to bustle. Officers from the municipal police begin the task of clearing the area. Once that is done, tractors move in to clean up the sand while the officers continue to herd the street-drinkers away from the area, toward the Plaza del Mar. The police block people from entering the neighborhood of Barceloneta, however, and move them toward the Joan de Borbó esplanade in the hope that they will return to their hotels.
There are people who are very drunk, there’s a lot of laughing and the odd lost shoe. But the night progresses without incident. On the Somorrostro beach, the police are also moving people on. It’s nearly 2am and there are still plenty of people in the streets. This first night of the latest curfew bears little resemblance to the previous one, which was in place from October 25, 2020 until May 9, 2021, and left the streets completely deserted.
English version by Simon Hunter.