Living with a brothel next door: "It's unbearable"

Residents of a block of flats in Barcelona's Eixample denounce the noise and nuisance it generates

3 min
The banner hung by residents of a building on Roger de Flor street against a brothel

BarcelonaCohabitation in big cities is not always easy, and sometimes it even seems impossible. Residents in a block of flats on Roger de Flor, in Dreta de l'Eixample, are fed up with the hustle and bustle caused by their neighbours and, above all, their clients. "They call us on the intercom in the early hours of the morning, because they constantly get the wrong buzzer, and people keep coming in and out," a resident explains, who does not want to give his name: "They are pretty nasty," he says. Like him, there are many residents in the same block who are fed up with living next to a brothel. Some mornings, when they leave the house, they have found vomit on the floor or empty bottles of alcohol that some overly drunk client has forgotten. They also have to put up with doors slamming at late hours and, from time to time, an argument with a client who doesn't want to pay or who has caused too much trouble. "The girls are not very quiet either," says another neighbour, who complains that they often shout up the stairs and when a neighbour manages to make them understand that there is no need to make such a fuss, "the pimp changes the girls and new ones come in".

The neighbours are fed up of calling the police and also reporting it to the City Council, but they have not achieved much. Sources from the Eixample district explain that they are monitoring the case and that there is a sanctioning file in progress since 2021. The police, however, has examined the property and, according to police sources, "has not detected any movement in or out of the house". And yet, according to neighbours, "it is a constant flow". It is easy to tell who workers are, who normally arrive in the afternoon accompanied by a man who leaves the car at the door and waits until they enter the building to start their workday. But it is also easy to tell who the clients are. A neighbour says they "are between 25 and 60 years old". None of them understand how it is possible that after so many complaints nothing can be done against an unlicensed brothel that operates every day.

After realising that there was not much they could do through ordinary channels, the residents decided to paint the intercom of the apartment in question red to prevent the clients (who go there all day but especially at night) from continuing to ring the wrong bell – they end up waking up the whole block. But the brothel owners promptly deleted it: "They want maximum discretion," neighbours say.

Advertised on the Internet

The brothel has been operating for years, but in the last two years the number of workers and clients has skyrocketed. The brothel is advertised on websites consulted by prostitution clients, with the corresponding description of what the workers do or don't do and some photographs of the girls. There is also a telephone number you can call to find out about prices and the exact address, since on the website it only says that it is on Roger de Flor just below Aragó street.

The adjoining building, where there is a children's hospital, also suffers the consequences. The hospital's windows look out onto the brothel's patio. "The door is always open and you can hear everything. And every once in a while, the pimps come out to smoke and we have to keep the windows closed," complains Delfí Vidal, owner of one of the apartments closest to the premises. Delfí rented the apartment to a girl who complains that living there is "unbearable". "One day I went to talk to them and told them not to make any more noise or I would knock their door down", Delfí explains, angrily.

Fed up with this situation, the neighbours hung a banner against the brothel right in front of the windows of the premises. They say the man who occasionally comes to take the money ripped it down and shouted angrily for some time. Now the banner is hanging on the second floor balcony, to see if giving it more visibility will solve the problem. The woman who lives and works in the brothel did not want to make any statements to ARA

No brothel license

Prostitution premises have always existed, and they did so using different licenses that hid their real activity, such as music bars, massage parlours, hairdressers or saunas. From 2002, the Barcelona City Council established a period to regularise all these premises and give them a license that would allow it to know what activity really took place. Brothels had to have a license and prove that prostitution was being practiced. From that date on, in order to obtain a license for premises where prostitution is practised, very restrictive conditions must be met, such as not being directly underneath a residential apartment or being over 100 metres away from schools. In practice, these conditions make it impossible for new ones to open.