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Madrilenos flock to traditional terrazas

Sitting out the crisis: Spaniards may be stuck at home this summer, but they aren’t staying indoors.

Some even dare to launch a business in this habitually slow period of the year. Miguel Marino inaugurated his new terraza, Las Tres Manolas, in downtown Madrid in mid-August. Owner of three other restaurant businesses, he has witnessed Spaniards’ consumption patterns go from carefree to careful. People continue to go out, he said, but, “customers that used to order cured ham now have a beer and leave to eat at home.”

Sitting in another terraza with two friends, Guillermo Vizcaino, 35, recalled: “People used to have three rounds of beer with a tapa and then dinner, but not any more.”

At La Esquinita, Lydia Reinoso waited on a full terraza where her customers paid little attention to the menu posted outdoors. “People come for drinks, but they don’t order food. They go home for dinner,” she said. The 32,000 establishments in the region of Madrid, including bars, restaurants, cafeterias, terrazas and pubs, provide 140,000 jobs. The sector’s business volume in the region is 7 billion euros (about $9.9 billion) a year, according to La Vina.

“Bars and terrazas are part of our culture. It’s the way we socialize,” said Cosmen. Normally, businesses are open until 1:30 a.m. during the week and until 2:30 a.m. on weekends. People stay up late even if they have to get up early the next morning for work; so rooted is the practice in society, that children sitting with their parents or grandparents in a terraza at midnight is a common sight.

“We cannot lose the terraza tradition, no matter how bad the economy gets,” said David Moreno, 30. An audio and video technician enjoying a beer and fries with a friend, he has been unemployed for eight months. He said chatting with pals helps him hang on, in spite of his economic problems. He went to the beach seven summers in a row, but this year he is staying home. Now, he said he watches how much he spends, but still manages to go out with his friends once a week. “Things have to be really bad for someone not to spend 5 euros [$7] on a Friday night with friends,” he stated.

Outdoor bars are hoping it never gets that bad. They are counting on Madrilenos stuck at home to keep their businesses afloat.