Legal regulations on business hours in Spain

In Spain, Law 1/2014 on Business Hours states that establishments throughout national territory engaged mainly in the sale of cakes and pastries, bread, ready-made dishes, newspapers and magazines, fuel and lubricants, flowers and plants, convenience stores (as well as sales points at border posts, in stations and on passenger transport by road, rail, sea or air), and establishments in tourist areas have the freedom to determine the days and hours that they will remain open to the public.

The law establishes that the Autonomous Communities, at the proposal of the relevant local council, will specify the areas that qualify for major tourist destination status within their respective territorial scope. The areas that qualify for major tourist destination status will be those areas that belong to the municipality entirely or partially and in which at least one of the following circumstances occurs:

  • Existence of a sufficient concentration, quantitative or qualitative, of places of accommodation and tourist establishments or in the number of holiday homes compared to those that are permanent homes.
  • The area has been declared a World Heritage Site or it is located in an immovable property of cultural interest integrated into the historical artistic heritage.
  • It restricts or consists of areas of influence of border areas.
  • Celebration of major sports and cultural events of a national or international character.
  • Proximity to ports where tourist cruises operate and record a high influx of visitors.
  • It constitutes an area where shopping tourism is the main attraction.
  • When special circumstances occur and can be justified.

In any case, the law states that in municipalities with more than 200,000 inhabitants that have registered more than 1,000,000 overnight stays in the year immediately preceding or which have ports operating tourist cruises have received more than 400,000 tourists in the year immediately preceding, it will be declared, at least, one large tourist area.

With the approval of Decree-Law 8/2014 of 4 July, the Business Hours Law 1/2004 is modified to establish the following changes:

  • In cases where resolutions of the local governments to local applications for declaration of major tourist area status are not adequately founded and create unjustified restrictions on territorial scope or temporary periods in these areas, the principle of liberalization of business hours will be in force for the entire municipality and the entire annual period, always respecting the local applications that are duly justified.
  • The threshold population of the municipality has been reduced from more than 200,000 residents to more than 100,000 residents and the overnight stays threshold has also been reduced from more than one million to more than 600,000 overnight stays to increase the number of Spanish cities that are obligated to declare at least one large tourist area. The Autonomous Communities where municipalities that have met these requirements in 2013 are located, must declare at least one large tourist area in those municipalities within six months from 5 July 2014. In the absence of such a declaration, these municipalities will have full freedom of business hours during the annual period in all its scope.

With these scales, ten new cities will have to declare at least one large tourist area: San Sebastián, A Coruña, Salamanca (already declared), Santander, Oviedo, Gijón, Almeria, Marbella (already declared), León and Jerez de la Frontera. The municipalities are responsible for defining the areas and the Autonomous Communities for declaring them.

Therefore, the law reduces the thresholds established in the 2012 standards and aims to expand the special scheme and freedom of business hours to a larger number of areas in municipalities of singular attraction. Voluntary statements from other municipalities have joined these cities, the main ones being the provincial capitals of Avila, Valladolid, Salamanca, Cáceres and Badajoz, as well as the municipality of Mérida and the autonomous city of Ceuta.

  • Regarding the municipalities that have not yet adopted this declaration, the Autonomous Communities must adopt the corresponding resolution within two months from 5 July 2014. If it is not resolved within that period, it will be assumed that the concerned municipalities will have full freedom of business hours during the annual period in the entire municipality.

For further information regarding legal regulations on business hours in Spain,

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice.

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