"If they open the dark supermarket here, we will make it very difficult for them"

Neighbours of a quiet backstreet in Les Corts mobilise against a home delivery store

2 min
The passage Chile, to Las Cortes, where a multinational wants to open a ghost supermarket

BarcelonaThe desire to consume whatever it is and to receive it at home the sooner the better are behind the rise in dark supermarkets. These are small warehouses distributed around the city that do not sell to the public but supply deliverymen who then take the orders – by bicycle, scooter or motorbike – to our front door. A multinational has decided to open one of these stores in the quiet Xile backstreet, where the district of Les Corts meets Hospitalet, and has put the neighbours on the warpath. "Pedestrians have priority on this street, and we do not understand how you can open a store like this," complains Òscar Tapioles, one of those affected. The company seeks to attract customers by claiming delivery is "ultra-fast", in a matter of "minutes". And it is this immediacy that the neighbours fear, who in their nightmares already see the motorcycles circulating at full speed through the street where peace now reigns. Another of those affected, Jordi Gràcia, warns: "If they open the dark supermarket, we will make it difficult". But nothing suggests that the store, which already has its goods inside, will not end up opening.

This Wednesday two operators could be seen inside preparing the store with total discretion. Even when they were inside working they lowered the shutter, as if the door of the establishment were not enough to avoid neighbours' looks. "Have they already opened?" a woman asked Jordi Gràcia. "No, not yet", he answered worriedly. On this street there are two kindergartens, and very close there are two more public schools. Located between Cardenal Reig street and Collblanc road, this alley is a small island of low-rises where the stressful rhythm of the city has not managed to enter, for the moment. Barcelona City Council sources admit that the margin is slim: "The City Council is analysing this new type of activity, with the aim of preserving local trade and minimising the impact on public space," they argue, but the phenomenon is very new and "there is still no regulation" for it. As happened with tourist apartments, the boom of electric scooters and with so many other changes in habits that are suddenly imposed on the city, public regulation needs time, but private initiative, fuelled by consumers, hasn't a minute to spare.

No business license (for the moment)

The company that has rented the premises at 54 bis Passatge Xile is Getir, a firm of Turkish origin. Consulted by this newspaper, company sources have explained that they have met with both the Barcelona City Council and the neighbours to try to find a solution, but did not want to give more details. Nor have they clarified when they plan to ask for a license for their activity, which they are yet to process. Apparently, one possibility would involve agreeing with the City Council that motorcycles and bicycles do not enter the backstreet, but are forced to park on Cardenal Reig and deliveryman walk to the premises. This measure does not convince the neighbours, who do not believe it would be respected: "How are they going to waste a minute walking if they advertise saying that they will arrive at your house within ten minutes? "

Getir has opened thirteen stores in Madrid and six in Barcelona, strategically distributed to cover most of the city. "We are not against this activity, but in this street we don't want them", insists Gràcia, who doesn't understand how a business like this can end up opening in a street that was made pedestrian-friendly over ten years ago.

No licenses for kitchens

A few months ago, the Catalan capital experienced a similar problem with so-called dark kitchens. In this case it was large kitchens that also did not serve customers inside the premises, but prepared dishes for home delivery. In March, to gain time and prepare a regulation for this new activity, the City Council dictated a suspension of licenses. So far, two had requested permission, one in Les Corts and another in La Verneda. Neighbours complained of noise and smells the business could generate.