By Cristina Sanchez and Silvio Castellanos
MADRID (Reuters) - Faced with the prospect of closure amid the coronavirus pandemic, a cozy tapas bar in the centre of Madrid appealed to its clients in an emotional video in late October to help it stay afloat by paying for their food and drink in advance.
Over the past five weeks, El miniBAR has received 40,000 euros ($48,592) from some 400 loyal customers who prepaid for food and drink they hope to return to the bar to enjoy later. Owner Nacho Bustos keeps a list and the customers just need to give their phone number so the amount is deducted from what they paid in advance.
"El miniBAR is almost a second home to me, so I think it's a great idea. I encourage people to join this initiative to save the small business in the city," said Ivan Lopez, one of the donors.
The bar, in the vicinity of the Plaza Mayor square, also distributes gifts to those willing to help, including bottles of bubbly, masks with its logo and colourful handmade flowerpots like the ones adorning its facade.
With over 1.67 million COVID-19 infections, more than 46,000 deaths, and a tourism-dependent economy, Spain has been of the hardest-hit countries in Europe. Bars, restaurants and hotels have borne the brunt of government-ordered restrictions, including lockdowns and curfews.
"We are doing badly, frankly. We have lots of problems, a lack of clients, high costs and we don't want to lay off the 17 people working here," Bustos said in his video on social media, showing empty tables in the rooms.
Only half the staff are currently working, with the rest furloughed and getting a portion of their previous salary from the government. Business has recently taken a turn for the better.
"Last week we noticed they were more clients, maybe because Christmas lights were installed. What I wish the most is that the number of infections decreases, so people want to go out with their family and friends," said Bustos.
($1 = 0.8232 euros)
(Reporting by Cristina Sanchez, editing by Andrei Khalip and Lisa Shumaker)