Hundreds of bar customers prepay for food and drinks to keep tapas joint open amid coronavirus pandemic

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Fans of a bar and tapas restaurant in Madrid, Spain, have advanced the eatery the equivalent of thousands of dollars amid its struggles to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

El Minibar owner Nacho Bustos posted a video to the bar’s Facebook page in October, asking customers to “crowdfund” the business by buying advance vouchers for their future meals and drinks. Bustos said the bar was doing badly due to a lack of customers, and he was worried about potentially needing to lay off his 17 employees.

In addition to the advance vouchers, the bar offered gifts, like a hand-painted flower pot, a mask with the bar’s logo, or a bottle of wine, to some of the donors.

And the idea worked. About 400 of El miniBAR’s patrons responded with 40,000 euros — about $48,600 — over the past five weeks, Reuters reported.

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Ivan Lopez, one of the bar’s donors, told Reuters that the place “is almost like a second home.”

“So I think it’s a great idea,” Lopez told Reuters. “I encourage people to join this initiative to save the small business in the city.”

Still, only half of the bar’s staff are working now, according to Reuters. The rest are furloughed and getting money from the government.

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Spain is among the pandemic’s hardest-hit counties in Europe. More than 46,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Spain, and another 1.6 million have been infected there since the outbreak began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Restaurants, bars and cafes in the Madrid region are currently not allowed to serve at the bar, and must reduce their indoor capacity to 50%, according to the city’s English-language tourism website. Gatherings are limited to six people in any setting, and a curfew is in place from midnight to 6 a.m. Masks are also required in all public spaces.

Customers sit on a cafe terrace, in downtown Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
(AP)

Bustos told Reuters that he has noticed an uptick in business since last week, and suggested the Christmas lights they put up may have helped.

“What I wish the most is that the number of infections decreases, so people want to go out with their family and friends,” he told Reuters.

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Social distancing restrictions have forced restaurants around the world to find creative ways to keep business going. Many restaurants have added tents or plastic bubbles for outdoor dining on sidewalks or parking lots. One restaurant in Budapest even served customers in a giant Ferris wheel in order to ensure distance between diners.

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