Anger as Barcelona restaurants turn away solo diners in favour of tourist groups

Solo travellers in Barcelona are being warned that they might not be able to dine by themselves on some of the city’s popular terraces as restaurants turn away parties of one.

The ban on solo diners in Spain’s most-visited destination is becoming more common on Carrer de Blai – known as the “Street of Tapas” – in the Poble Sec area and in the Eixample neighbourhood, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

Staff in restaurants are reportedly refusing to sit customers if they’re coming in for dinner alone, and have been known to say that they’re fully booked. Those who do manage to get a table for one could be tucked away in the corner, or by the bar, kitchen or toilet.

After the problem was discussed on social media, it has now made its way into the national press.

“On the first terrace where I got a table, a waiter quickly arrived and told me that it was reserved. It was not. As soon as I got up, a group of foreigners who were behind me sat down,” a disappointed diner named as Eudald told El País. He said he was forced to return home without dinner after the next restaurant said he’d only have a table for 20 minutes and another told him the terrace was for groups only.

Another Barcelonan, named as Anna, told the newspaper that she was declined a table at her local bar on a number of occasions when she went alone – despite being a regular customer.

“The last time I got very upset and told them that if it was a matter of money, I was willing to play their game. That if we were going to go into voracious capitalism, how much was the minimum that I had to pay to be able to sit on the terrace and have dinner.

“They told me that it was not because of that, I simply could not sit alone.”

Residents of Barcelona have also complained that they’ve been unable to have a pre-meal drink at lunch and dinner as the tables are being kept for foreign tourists looking to eat.

The Gràcia neighbourhood, specifically in the Flanders café in Plaça Rovira i Trias, has introduced a ticket machine so potential customers take a number and wait for a seat. This only occurs when all the seats are occupied, however, and it’s not clear if solo diners are penalised.

The Independent has contacted Barcelona Tourism and Barcelona City Council for further information.

Barcelona has been blighted by overtourism in recent years, with Responsible Travel reporting that its port was found to be the most polluted in Europe in 2019, while tourist demand for accommodation has driven up rents and forced locals to move out of town.

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