The cocktail bar was already dying before the coronavirus: thus came the crisis of a symbol of the Spanish night | ICON

In cocktail bars, couples and corrupt plots have been hatched, friendships and legs have been broken, the world has been fixed many times and made a fool of themselves. Deaths and ruptures have been mourned. Companies, political movements and families have been set up. The cocktail bars have been at the forefront of history. But now, along with discopubs, clubs, discos and other nightlife venues, they seem to be fading little by little. With them goes the alcoholic and canallita memory of generations. What happens at night

In about a decade, since the financial crisis, 64% of discos have closed. The cocktail bars have gone from 20,000 to 16,000, according to the Federation of Nightlife Associations

It is not alone the pandemic. It is known that a nightclub, given its characteristics (dancing, close conversations, screaming, alcohol, drugs, flirting, exaltation of friendship), is where contagion can occur the easiest and the virus is making it harder for them and the government to regain normalcy. But, before the emergence of Covid-19, a change in customs was already taking place, a cultural and generational change.

In about a decade, since the financial crisis, 64% of discos have closed. The cocktail bars have gone from 20,000 to 16,000, according to the Federation of Nightlife Associations (Fasyde). Curiously, the effect has been asymmetrical, concentrating the survivors in large urban areas: there is also an Empty Spain of festive nights. This without counting the effects of the coronavirus.

“The 2008 crisis had an impact on young people, reducing their consumption capacity and that caused a change in priorities: adolescents stopped going to discos, the alternative was the bottle, while young adults prioritized other types of leisure” , explains the social anthropologist Carles Feixa, professor at Pompeu Fabra University and an expert on youth. The new generations are also less and less inclined to this type of nightlife, while the generations that are taking years, although they want to extend their youth, want to do it in a different way more compatible with the responsibilities and endurance of the body typical of age. The population ages in age, but not in its eagerness to alternate.

Representatives and nightlife workers have demonstrated in several cities in Spain to ask for changes in new regulations that leave them defenseless and without the possibility of movement. Getty Images

Life has also been digitized: “Part of the socialization and fun is not carried out face to face, but through technology. This also supposes a change in the temporality: the ‘fever of Saturday night’ has diluted in the rest of the week ”, indicates Feixa. Indeed, flirting no longer requires a dark and smoky joint (there is Tinder, Grindr and the like). Contact with friends is maintained continuously through messaging and social networks, and there is an abundance of entertainment in the form of video games and audiovisual platforms. “Going out at night is no longer like going to Mass once a week in a secular cathedral,” adds the anthropologist.

After all, exploring the last reaches of the night (and, according to the audacity, of the following mornings) is not such a common thing outside of Spain and the occasional Mediterranean country. The spree is changing shape … or even ceasing to be a spree.

“A certain fatigue is detected with respect to classic leisure based on ‘going out for drinks’ (inherited from the eighties), where young people are mere consumers; and a search for more self-managed and cheap ways, where they feel like protagonists “

Luis Ruiz Aja, author of ‘Noche y Jóvenes’

What do young people do?

“Now we prefer to go to a park with friends, have a beer there and listen to some music,” says 18-year-old Maia Robles, “and if we go to the disco, it is specifically to dance”. She was one of the participants in a project carried out by the photographer Laura Ortega for the Madrid City Council in which she portrayed today’s youth 25 years after the film’s premiere Kronen stories, by Montxo Armendáriz, based on the homonymous novel by José Ángel Mañas. Indeed, if the young people portrayed in the Kronen were bar rats, things have changed over time. In the intermission, a good part of the youth has dedicated themselves to drinking in the street, due to the lack of money or the reduction of the hours of the bars. Where they have been left, of course.

But not only that: leisure based on night, alcohol or drugs, is eclipsing. In 1999, there were 64% of young people who went out all or almost all weekends, according to studies by the Santamaría Foundation and the Youth Institute (Injuve). That percentage has dropped to 21%. Conversely, 23% of young people never or almost never go out, when at the turn of the century it was only 3.5%.

“The leisure of young people is very diverse and is changing,” says sociologist Luis Ruiz Aja, author of the book Night and young (Ned Ediciones) and technical manager of Youth at the Santander City Council. “A certain fatigue is detected with respect to the classic leisure based on ‘going out for drinks’ (inherited from the eighties), where young people are mere consumers; and a search for more self-managed and cheap ways, where they feel like protagonists ”.

The Spanish night is no longer the same as reflected in the generational 'Historias del Kronen' (1995).
The Spanish night is no longer the same as the generational ‘Historias del Kronen’ (1995) reflected. Getty Images

Among the examples given by the sociologist are the shared rental of entertainment venues (a place where you can have a fridge, sofas, a video game console, music), called “lonjas” or “bajeras”, or spontaneous parties in macroparks Barcelona or Madrid, “which had their peak in the early years of the 21st century, until they were banned by the City Council, and included flea markets, percussion, capoeira, juggling, etc, without alcohol playing a central role”, he says Ruiz Aja. Waves “raves healthywake-up parties) ”, Where the goal is not to get a high but to dance cleanly.

What do adults do?

The concept of youth has been lengthening and one can already be young at any age. More to do with the date of birth, it has to do with the vital attitude. Although what we call youth culture was born in the sixties by the hand of the baby boomers (a large market that was opening) now youth culture is increasingly consumed by a broader segment of the population. See for example video games or music festivals indie. “Today youth culture includes all stages of life, even the elderly who live an ‘active aging’ in which they do not renounce travel or new experiences,” says Feixa.

Many current adults continue to do nightlife, even if it is not at night: “Other possibilities arise such as morning concerts, family experiences or the ‘lateo’ that has spread from Albacete, Murcia or Alicante to other Spanish cities”

So many current adults continue to do nightlife, even if it is not at night. “Other possibilities arise such as morning concerts, family experiences or the late or (going out in the afternoon) that has been spreading from Albacete, Murcia or Alicante to other Spanish cities ”, explains Vicente Pizcueta, spokesman for the business federation España de Noche. But wait … if it’s not night, how can it be nightlife? “That is an interesting question that we think about”, answers Pizcueta who, not in vain, has studies in Philosophy: “Let’s say that what remains is that rogue and creative spirit that the night has. Also, in winter it gets dark earlier ”. In the “going out” neighborhoods of the cities, it is increasingly rare for a businessman to open a cocktail bar: options such as the wine bar, the gastrobar, the hipster restaurant, well, dinner are imposed to treat a larger public. , a glass and for home.

“The styles change, the shows, the playful, everything mutates at a very fast, almost generational speed: each generation looks for its identity,” says Pizcueta. “That makes it difficult for the legislation to adapt to these changes.” He argues that nightlife is a pillar of tourism, in turn, a pillar of the Spanish economy (nightlife represents 1.8% of GDP and employs 200,000 people, according to Fasyde). The regulations, he points out, are not usually favorable to this type of business in question, such as schedules, licenses or the prohibition of smoking. “In places like Berlin or Singapore he has better understood what this kind of leisure can mean.” Thus, the entertainment of music and drinks is transformed into something else, more based on shows, gastronomy, and so on. “Today they are not so hectic formats, it is no longer the marathon of the dance floor, and it is not strange to find people in their sixties enjoying the night,” says the spokesman.

The life cycle is changing, according to Feixa. Before, young people studied and had fun, adults worked and raised, and older ones rested. Now we all do everything all the time, it is a new way of looking at life. The nightlife industry (or nightlife, whoops) is facing a cultural change accelerated by the pandemic, but the resulting pie may be even bigger, as options and hours diversify. “There are many companies that are not going to resist”, concludes Pizcueta, “but the sector, with its transformations, has a great future”. Let’s toast to it, even if we don’t toast too late.

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