Saturday, April 23, 2016

Getting Angry In Puerto Pollensa

People have been getting angry in Puerto Pollensa. People are signing petitions, people are falling out, people are arranging demonstrations. It seems like 2010 all over again, when the people took to the streets and when the then mayor, Joan Cerdà, was all but barricaded inside the one-time municipal building.

The hopeless pedestrianisation pilot scheme of the Cerdà administration - abandoned by the time the 2010 protest took place at the start of June that year - was just one ingredient that went into a whole menu of complaints directed at the town hall. The actual scheme, the one being worked on at present, has once more put the town hall in the firing line but it has also, as has been revealed on social media, driven something of a wedge between people.

Then there are the charges that the town hall has had to respond to that the new pavements do not permit accessibility for wheelchairs (or indeed baby buggies and any other form of wheeled device). A levelling-off that will allow smooth accessibility will not be done until the second phase this winter. In the meantime, says the town hall, temporary solutions will be adopted that allow for wheelchair use.

Anyway, at 11am on Monday there is to be a form of protest to highlight the difficulties posed at present for wheelchair, mobility and buggy users.

Slightly ironic in light of the other reason for anger is the meeting place for this protest. It will be in front of Gran Café 1919, the establishment by the yacht club roundabout that found itself at the centre of the most colossal row that broke out last weekend. While the falling-out over the pedestrianisation might have appeared somewhat personal at times, that was nothing compared to this controversy. It is highly personal.

To cut to the chase, this involves the ice-cream kiosk of Gelats Valls in front of Gran Café 1919. The kiosk has been there and been operated by the Valls family since the 1960s. It is, say many, emblematic, a part of the Puerto Pollensa furniture. However, a 2015 town hall decision made it clear that as the kiosk is on the public way there has to be a tender for its operation. The Valls family were informed of this and told that the kiosk could not re-open this year, subject to the tender process being initiated and completed. It has re-opened.

The family says that there was once an award for the kiosk for a period of 99 years or until such a time as the families (Valls and Martorells) ceased to be involved in the ice-cream business. A problem with this is that no one can find the documentary evidence.

The town hall had been going through a process of annual reconfirmation of the kiosk's activities, but in September 2014 it received a communication from Café Capuchino 1919 SL, the company under which Gran Café 1919 trades. This was essentially a request for the town hall to consider the occupation of the public way by the kiosk. The communication also suggested that the kiosk represented an invasion of space authorised or authorisable for use by the cafe. It would appear that it was this which resulted in the town hall decision of May 2015 that the authorisation to Valls would cease at the end of the year and that the space would revert to the town hall, which would place the kiosk up for tender.

The story of this is, on the one hand, a story of nostalgia and of the rights of the small, family business. Everyone, tourist and resident alike, seems to have their own story and recollection of the kiosk, the ice-cream and the founders. On the other, it is a story of what can only be described as resentment directed at a bigger business concern. Gran Café 1919 is just one establishment which ultimately belongs to Grupo Boulevard.

There is a good deal of history in Puerto Pollensa concerning Boulevard, and all this old resentment burst out because of the Valls affair. Some of what has been expressed on social media, directed at Boulevard and at its owner, borders on the libellous, as do some observations made about the town hall. In some ways, it has become a story of classic smalltown politics and business, replete with rivalries and hostilities. In others, it is just about people, some with long memories of holidays and residence, sticking up for a well-loved ice-cream kiosk which seems to be a victim.

Emotions have been allowed to run high. Rather too high. The pedestrianisation works, admittedly a less than satisfactorily managed project, will cease soon enough, and hopefully the ill-feeling will cease as well. As for the ice-cream kiosk, perhaps a hope that the town hall had expressed for a "satisfactory and amicable solution" prior to the kiosk having re-opened might yet be found.

No comments: