Wednesday 18th May 2022 – Mike Smith
Source: Facebook – Ajuntament de Xàbia
In the face of growing outrage over the closure of several bar-restaurants in the Arenal zone, Xàbia Council has responded with a statement which was published on its Facebook page yesterday evening.
We have reproduced the statement in full below:
Give the reactions to the enforced closure of a number of leisure venues in the Arenal (Salt, Bontànico, Atalaya, Baltasar, Bambula, Acqua and Achill), Xàbia Council wishes to clarify a number of points.
- The closure order is due to the fact that these hospitality businesses don’t have the necessary business licences due to certain deficiencies in their premises in addition to the complaints from residents about the inconvenience they generate, complaints which resulted in the opening of an investigation by the Valencian Anti-Fraud Agency (AVAF).
- These deficiencies refer to local town planning regulations, economic activity requirements, and coastal sector regulations.
- The premises have had open violation proceedings for some years and, within the procedures, they have been required to solve the problems identified on several occasions.
- The owners of the premises have been aware of this situation for many years as well as the measures that need to be taken to legalize their activity in these premises. Instead of focusing on this, they have chosen to delay the process with appeals and allegations, a process that they knew would have an expiration date.
- When investigating the legal situation of the premises, AVAF determined that they lack the necessary license and gave the local council a deadline to formally close the businesses.
- The local council has respected all the mandatory steps and hearings, and finally closed the violation file with a final closure order on the seven premises (on which it is no longer possible to appeal).
- Two of the affected businesses – Atalaya and Baltasar – accepted the order and closed voluntarily within the deadline required, starting the process required towards re-opening. The local council thanks them both for their cooperation.
- The other five businesses have not complied with the order and therefore subsidiary execution had to be activated. Four of the businesses have been forced to close: Salt, Botánico, Bambula and Acqua. It is also planned – and the manager has been notified – to close the Achill nightclub this Friday.
- Forced closure by the local council is the last resort to enforce the closure order on the premises that have not complied.
- We regret that we have arrived at this moment and the consequences that it may have on the employees of these companies. We appreciate the effort that has been made by these venues to enhance this part of the Arenal but the observance of the rules in any area is mandatory.
- We want to clarify that this action does not mean that the premises are closed permanently. If the owners correct any deficiencies and violations that may have been committed, the affected premises will be able to obtain a license and resume normal business.
- Finally, the local council wants to remind everyone of its commitment to the whole business fabric of Xàbia and in particular to the hospitality sector. Proof of this is the large amount of financial aid allocated to dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suspension of the tax for terraces, the permissions granted for new terracing space where they didn’t exist, the training provided by the local council for working in the related sector, the funding and promotion of gastronomic fairs and the constant dialogue with the hospitality sector to determine certain measures advantageous for its business.
We hope that this unpleasant situation will end soon and we will do our utmost to make it so.
The current situation has stemmed from an investigation by the Valencian Anti-Fraud Agency – a politically independent legal body – in response to an anonymous allegation made two years ago that none of the premises were operating with the correct licensing in place. Inquiries found that this was indeed the case, none of the businesses were licensed, despite a responsible declaration being agreed by them with which they could open with the proviso that they would subsequently apply for the necessary permissions, an administrative tool that was launched in 2011 to boost the economy. Nor had they sought permission from the Provincial Headquarters of Costas to operate their business on protected land, such as it is, a requirement for the successful application for a business licence.
Consequently, in February 2022, after publishing a 39-page report, AVAF ordered the local council to close these premises within three months, despite initial concerns from the local administration that it lacked the means to do so, which were rejected by AVAF.
Atalaya and Baltasar complied with the demand to close but five other venues remained open. As a result, Botánico and Salt were forcibly closed on Friday 13th May whilst Acqua and Bambula followed suite on Tuesday 17th May. It is expected that the police will return on Friday 20th May to formally close Achill nightclub.
JaveaCompany, which owns three of the affected businesses, released a statement on its Facebook page on Tuesday 17th May, calling the enforced closure an “illegal” action and asked how many other businesses currently lack the proper licence yet are allowed to continue their activity. The statement went on to claim that the business had an administrative OCA that certified that it has all the necessary documentation in place as well as the relevant safety and fire prevention obligations that were necessary to open. It then went on the accuse “some politicians” of being hypocritical and cowardly in allowing this closure to happen.
Later, on the same day, the company declared that it was organising a protest on the terrace of Bambula on Thursday 19th May between 7.00pm and 10.00pm in response to the “totally unjustified attacks by the council that have led to the closure of our premises”.