Why are these cafes in Spain cracking down on remote workers?

Some cafes have banned laptops completely while others charge an hourly rate for the privilege of using them.


One of the perks of being a digital nomad is swapping a dreary office for a rotation of trendy cafes in destinations around the world.

But in some places in Spain, remote workers and their laptops are becoming undesirable customers.

Bars and cafes in Valencia, Santiago and Barcelona are cracking down on digital nomads who overstay their welcome.

Owners say teleworkers hog tables for hours, sometimes for the price of a single coffee.

Fed up, they are now taking action. And they are not the only ones in Europe. Coffee shops and snack bars from Paris to Berlin have already established rules for so-called “laptop squatters”.

Cafes in Spain crack down on remote working

Remote working continues to be a popular lifestyle choice, encouraged by the increasing list of digital nomad visa and accommodation schemes.

With plenty of sunshine, reasonable prices and culture-rich cities, Spain is a top choice for digital nomads.

But their way of working is not always compatible with a destination’s lifestyle. Cafes and bars in cities in Spain are growing frustrated by people ordering a single drink and then occupying a table for several hours or even a whole day.

For small business owners, it is not a viable form of income and many have decided to take action.

Raquel Llanes, who runs a cafe in the Raval area of Barcelona, explained to local website Barcelona Secreta that the situation was out of control.

“We’ve had customers who have ordered an espresso and sat for eight hours, people who have asked us to turn the music down so they could have meetings, customers who took out their Tupperware to eat,” she said.

“At first we adapted the space with sockets and to work, but after two years we realised that the numbers weren’t working out.”

In Valencia, Santiago and Barcelona, bars and cafes have decided to switch off WiFi to dissuade teleworkers.

Some cafes have put up posters stating that remote working is banned during peak hours between 8.30am and 12.30pm.

Others allow laptop-equipped customers to use the space but will ask them to move if they need room for a group or regulars.

Laptops banned in cafes in Paris and Berlin

For several years now, cafes in European cities including Paris, Berlin, Lisbon and Brighton have been taking a stand against remote workers.

Some have banned laptops completely while others charge an hourly rate for the privilege of using them.

For many cafe owners, it’s not just about the unprofitability of remote workers but also about protecting their business’ primary function: a convivial place to interact with other customers face-to-face.


“It’s definitely a bad image for the cafe if you walk past it and keep seeing the same four or five faces with their laptops on, regardless of whether they’ve paid or not,” one commenter wrote on a Reddit thread.

“The cafes are supposed to be fun places where people go and have conversations.”

“I know lots of people here glamorise the idea of working from coffee shops in exotic places, but it’s both socially unacceptable and burdensome to the business much of the time,” said another.

Sometimes, it is also a case of frustration at digital nomads’ disrespectful behaviour.

“The worst is those people [who] leave the supermarket sandwich wrappers on the table for the staff (me, in the past) to clean up,” another user on the same thread wrote.


Where to remote work in Spain

If you’re a digital nomad in Spain looking for remote working space that won’t ruffle feathers, consider taking advantage of the dozens of co-working spaces popping up all over the country.

In Barcelona, trendy Betahaus (also in Berlin, Hamburg, Sofia and Bucharest) has a luminous interior space and a plant-filled terrace. Spread across five floors, it has private offices and meeting spaces as well as communal working areas.

La Vaca (meaning cow and so-named because it is an ex-dairy) is an easygoing, greenery-filled space where you can listen to music, do yoga or have a game of pool when you need a break.

In Valencia, look up Vortex Coworking Playa in the seaside El Cabanyal neighbourhood. The restored building has a stylish interior of exposed wooden beams and brick walls and is equipped with a kitchen.

In Santiago, try Campus Stellae inside a 17th-century building. The five floors of communal spaces and private offices have prime views of the neighbouring cathedral.


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