The party continues at home, like it does every weekend.” It’s Friday night in Madrid’s famous Puerta del Sol square. Three young people are carrying bags filled with bottles of rum. They walk quickly. It’s 11pm, the time when Madrid’s curfew begins and bars and restaurants close. But there’s no sign of people rushing home. Instead, they gather outside the closing bars, eager for the night to continue. Plastic cups and cigarette butts litter the street, and there is lots of singing and hugging. And very few face masks. It’s just another weekend in Madrid, and youngsters are partying like there is no pandemic.
Shortly before these scenes on Friday, the regional premier of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party (PP), shared a video on Twitter of the owners of well-known bars and restaurants of the capital saying “Madrid is freedom” and “We are more alive than ever.” In Madrid – the region with the least strict coronavirus restrictions in Spain – the incidence rate has been steadily rising since last week, and the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 241.12. When the permitted social activity ends, the clandestine parties begin. Once the curfew starts, the most pressing question is: “Where to now?”
Roberto organizes weekly parties in his home in the upmarket Salamanca neighborhood in the center of Madrid. The 30-year-old has thousands of euros inside a safebox, so he can cover the cost of any potential fines for breaking the coronavirus restrictions. In fact, he’s thinking of charging people entrance fees to his parties. “Some Saturdays lots of foreigners show up, friends of friends. It could be a business,” he says. Around 30 youngsters are gathered in his luxury penthouse. None of them are wearing face masks and almost all are smoking. Music is blaring, people are yelling and dancing, and colorful fairy lights decorate the walls. “Shhhhhh,” is heard every time the doorbell rings.
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Madrid has become an oasis for parties. Just in the first 11 weeks of 2021, municipal police have broken up 3,761 parties in homes and bars for violating restrictions, according to Madrid’s security and emergency department. But according to authorities, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Meanwhile, the police are searching the streets for illegal parties. The people who deliver alcohol know exactly where they are. Indeed, they are often the ones who bring the guests there. Like every weekend, Luis, an Uber driver, picks up young people coming and going from parties. “Around here I picked up a girl who left an apartment with 60 people,” he says. According to Luis, the revelry is not just contained to the center of Madrid. “In areas where there are country houses, you have as many parties as you want, all night long,” he says. “I picked up some guys who had started in the early hours of Friday and left a bar Sunday morning,” he explains. “I think they use Uber drivers to confess.”