Barcelona’s Las Ramblas kiosk owners ordered to shut up shop this month

Barcelona City Council has plans to revamp the Catalan capital's emblematic Ramblas street, but this also includes the controversial decision to evict the owners of the promenade's historic kiosks.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Kiosks on Barcelona's Las Ramblas. Photo: Jorge Fernández Salas / Unsplash

Barcelona City Council plans to revamp the famous Las Ramblas into a place not just for holidaymakers, but somewhere that locals can enjoy too, since over the past 15 years or so the promenade has been taken over by touristy shops, illegal street vendors and fast-food restaurants, with their terraces taking up the pavement. 

This means making Las Ramblas greener, widening the pavements, and reducing the lanes of traffic on either side of these walkways from two to one. It’s estimated that the project will cost around €44.5 million.

But part of the city’s plans also involve getting rid of the iconic kiosks of Las Ramblas, which have been a common sight on the street for more than a century, giving them until the end of February to leave and close up shop. 

The Antic Ocellaires’ or ‘Pajareros’, as they’re called because they once used to sell birds and other small animals, have stood on Las Ramblas for the past 160 years.

The bird sellers even gave this part of Las Ramblas its official name – the Rambla de Ocells (ocells meaning birds in Catalan).

At the end of the 2000s, the Town Hall banned the sale of animals from these kiosks, due to complaints of animal cruelty, so the owners resigned agreements to sell things such as tourist souvenirs and ice creams instead while keeping their original name. 

Las Ramblas, Barcelona

The historic kiosks on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas have been given eviction notices. Photo: Martijn Vonk / Unsplash

Why does the City Council want to get rid of the kiosks?

The City Council claims that the old bird sellers have no place in the new future plans for Las Ramblas. They have said that there will only be flower and newspaper kiosks when it has been reformed, with the exception of one kiosk selling tickets for the historic Wax Museum.

The authorities argue that the licences of the kiosk owners expired on June 14th 2021 because of an agreement that was signed back in 1971, granting them a licence for a maximum term of 50 years.

Picture taken in 1949 of Las Ramblas Avenue in Barcelona, showing one of its iconic kiosks. (Photo by AFP)

What do the kiosk owners say? 

Javier Cuenca, spokesperson for the collective ‘Antic Ocellaires’ disagrees with this and told the Catalan News Agency that he believes their licences are still valid and urges further dialogue with the council to come to a solution.

The kiosk sellers have already filed an appeal against their eviction notice, as well a lawsuit.

Cuenca believes that the council’s decision is a “pressure strategy” and does not understand why they have to leave now, when he claims that plans to reform their part of Las Ramblas won’t come into effect until 2029. 

Many locals are also angry about the council’s decision, arguing that there are still prostitutes, pickpockets and manteros (immigrants or refugees who sell items illegally from blankets laid out on the streets) on Las Ramblas – even though many of these sellers now mainly congregate in other areas of the city. 

For some, Las Ramblas has come to represent the decay of parts of the Catalan capital, a city weighed down by its immense international popularity and all the knock-on effects that come with that in the 21st century.

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Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th

The British Embassy in Madrid announced on Wednesday that Spanish authorities have for the fourth time extended the period of validity of UK driving licences in Spain, as negotiations over the mutual exchange of licences continue with no deadline in sight. 

Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th

The Spanish government has approved another two-month extension to the validity of UK licences in Spain, several days after UK Ambassador for Spain Hugh Elliott announced he had requested a longer grace period as the February 28th deadline neared. 

“Following the Ambassador’s message last week we are pleased to let you know that yesterday the Spanish Government confirmed an extension of the current grace period for the recognition of UK driving licences,” the UK Embassy in Madrid wrote in a Facebook message.

“That means that those of you who were living in Spain before January 1st 2021 can continue to drive in Spain with your valid UK driving licence until April 30th 2022,” the British Embassy explained. 

“If you moved to Spain after January 1st 2021, your licence will be recognised for six months from the date you obtained residence, or until April 30th 2022, whichever is later. 

“For those of you who registered your intention to exchange your licence with the DGT before December 30th 2020, but have not yet done so, you have until April 30th to request an appointment.

The news will give some respite to UK licence holders in Spain, but the UK Embassy continues to suggest that people should make the necessary arrangements to take the test if it’s imperative that they continue to drive, regardless of whether a deal is reached or not. 

“I recognise that for language reasons this is not an option for many of you,” HMA Hugh Elliott stated last Thursday, in relation to the fact that the practical driving exam in Spain is with a Spanish-speaking driving examiner and can’t be done in English.

The vast majority of EU countries have been able to reach a deal with the United Kingdom over the recognition and easy exchange of driving licences post-Brexit, but Spain remains an outlier.

Driving licences: How does situation for Britons in Spain compare to rest of Europe?

“I can’t go into the details of the negotiations, but I can say that they are ongoing, there are regular meetings and there’s a strong will on both sides to reach an agreement,” the British Ambassador added.

“This process is of course taking much longer than we’d hoped and of course that creates anxiety for you, I know.”

It is unclear yet if any future agreement would be beneficial just to British residents who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or other UK licence holders who have moved or will move to Spain to become residents after Brexit came into force on January 1st 2021.

Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences (some need an international driving permit from the very beginning). 

After that, they have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch. In the worst case scenario for UK licence holders, they would only have to sit the practical and not the theory, although this would be in Spanish.

The situation described in this article doesn’t apply to British tourists with UK licences visiting Spain who are for example renting a car during their holidays.

The issues affect UK licence holders who are residents in Spain.

READ ALSO: The challenges Britons in Spain face in 2022