As anyone who has bought or leased a commercial property in Barcelona will tell you, it isn't as easy as just picking a spot you love and setting up shop. There are many things you need to consider before even beginning your search.
The reality is that all the districts in Barcelona have different restrictions and you will need to understand the various issues you could encounter and how to work through them. It can be tricky to find a property specialist who can speak English but who also has the local connections you need to get things done.
Metropolitan talks to Jordi Perez, Managing Director of GOBAI Group, a company that specialises in helping international clients open commercial businesses, about the potential challenges they can encounter.
1. What are the main problems facing anyone trying to find commercial premises in Barcelona?
Firstly, Barcelona, whilst being a popular destination, is not a particularly large city. You are limited as to which zones you choose merely by the size and scale . If we take bars and restaurants as an example, you will notice that Barcelona is saturated and though it makes the city diverse and interesting, it means competition is fierce and cost of rents and licenses can be high. There are also many regulations that need to be met before you open.
2. So what are the options when searching for a commercial property?
With bars, cafés and restaurants you essentially have two options. You can purchase an existing licence – meaning you would buy a the licence from the outgoing business of the premises you have found. The cost of the licence will depend on how valuable the business was. Some businesses will be ready to just sell and leave their equipment, which could be beneficial to anyone opening a restaurant for example. It is equipment they don't have to worry about buying. The cost will also depend on the location and the condition of the premises. If they were relatively new and well-kept, the licence owner can ask more. The second option would be apply to the town hall for a new licence. Again, the cost will depend on what kind of licence you want and what kind of project permission you need to do a re-fit, for example.
3. Does the issue of purchasing or applying for a new licence involve a lot of cost?
It can very quite expensive no matter which option you choose, again depending on what changes you want or need to make. A licence for a decent size bar/ café in a good area, with a lot of footfall, can cost tens of thousands, more in areas such as the Rambla and Gotic. Also it is important to note that now in Ciutat Vella (one of the most popular and central zones), you can no longer apply for new licences for bars, cafés and restaurants. You are required to buy an existing licence from another business. You then have to consider that all licences will need to be reviewed and assessed to make sure they are compliant with the law.
4. We have spoken a lot about commercial premises such as bars and restaurants but what about shops and office spaces? Are there different legislations and processes to apply?
Yes, but it is usually less process-heavy. To open whatever type of shop; veg shop, clothes shop, jewellers etc, you won't have to go through nearly as much administration as you do for a bar or restaurant. You likely won't need to think so much about things such as sound-proofing and strict fire-coding. Additionally, the town hall is unlikely to demand a project licence for activities. It could be as simple as providing the right data, completing the documents and having the plans for your shop prepared.
5. What do international clients find frustrating when starting a commercial premises here?
I think first and foremost, aside from the legislation and bureaucracy, is the language barrier. I understand as a Catalan, it is hard enough for clients to find suppliers they can trust in their own countries, but in a foreign land, it can be very daunting. Clients, naturally, want to know what is happening in detail with their premises - the licensing, project status etc and they need someone who can explain it clearly. Otherwise you can feel very much in the dark. And with a lot of money often at stake, it can be a stressful process.
6. Can it be difficult to find English-speaking contractors and suppliers then?
The feedback is yes! We were originally working with local business when we first started but we noticed a great need for English speaking services for ex-pats so have expanded the business to meet that need. I think is also helps to have local expertise and contacts but a global reach. It takes time for people to settle in and learn the language and it won't necessary happen whilst they are busy setting up their business.
7. What advice would you give to anyone setting up a business here?
I would tell them to ensure they have sufficient start-up costs for any renovations, license changes and rent. Businesses take a while to take-off and create buzz. We have worked on some great premises but they are took time to find their feet. Sufficient funds and patience are very important here! But the rewards can be huge. I would also tell them to find a good project manager or local contact who can help them with the search, the language, the licences, the legislation and all the things that can prove so difficult if you don't know the right people and processes.
The service we offer, for example, is end to end and we can often drive down prices to deliver and manage the whole project rather than divide it into parts. It also means you have one point of contact and accountability and you don't have to deal with several suppliers. We would definitely recommend a project management service in general to make the process easier.
For enquiries about starting a business in Barcelona, GOBAI Group can offer a free consultation and initial proposal.
Contact:: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel. 615 345 627 www.gobaigroup.com