Thousands of Brits and Spanish music lovers were shocked to find that iconic beach bars in Punta Prima on the Costa Blanca were closed without warning after a decade of music in the sun.
The closures followed hard on the heels of live music being banned at the Chill-Out Bar on a peninsula of rock which had earned the reputation of being the Costa’s Cafe del Mar.
One ex-pat said: “This is a calamity for our way of life, these three bars by the sea were buzzing with live bands and thousands of people people, ex-pats from all nations, and Spanish families got together every week.
“The bars were getting to be known all over the world. They were famous for the music, dancing, long happy hours, lots of fun and bringing everybody together.
“But now the owners have lost their income, staff have lost their jobs and we’ve lost a decade of brilliant entertainment.”
Pet owners too say they will lose part of their social life because the three bars were a focus for dog walkers.
Already the Brits had been denied Spanish language, flower arranging, dancing and Bridge classes at the Astoria restaurant ten minutes walk from the bars when they were closed down under new management.
Thousands of ex-pats from the UK, Scandanavia and Russia have been flocking to the area since the early 2000s attracted by the weather, the low cost of living and house prices that hit rock bottom after the banking collapse of 2008.
Before that the area was a relatively unknown and used mainly by holidaying Spaniards from Madrid and Barcelona.
Punta Prima itself is a 20 minute walk from Torrevieja which, until tourism took hold, eked a living from fishing and salt-mining. It is now famous for its pink and green salt lakes.
Police are said to have pulled the plug on the music after complaints from neighbours who said they were missing out on their siestas.
One woman, from Edinburgh, who also didn’t want to be named, said: “This is a wonderful place, the climate and weather are fabulous and the ex-pat and Spanish get along famously.
“But it was a bit dull, so a few years ago people got together with some musicians living out here and began playing live music on the beach. Almost immediately people began to come from all over to enjoy it and have a good time.”
And within months the once-scruffy Chill-Out bar which normally only opened at the height of the summer season, was serving ice cold lager all year round and was being described as the new Cafe del Mar.
The other two beach bars, the BolaBola and the Sunrise began to join in.
Even Trip Advisor was getting posts off tourists who had tuned in to the impromptu music scene. One said: “Rocky beach but all the best live music here at the moment. People travel from all over to listen. Don’t miss out!”
Then out of the blue this post appeared on social media: “Sorry folks, NO MUSIC tomorrow or the following days. One person rang the police 15 times complaining, so all beach bars are not allowed music at Punta Prima. Such a shame, there is always one.”
The sun-soaked music fans were furious, one said: “It’s ridiculous. The closest neighbours are a long way off and the winds usually blow the noise out to sea anyway. But now bar owners, staff and members of some of the bands have lost part of their incomes.
“It’s not like the music was going on into the early hours of the morning or anything, they were afternoon events… they brought a lot of trade into the area, what was wrong with that?”
There appears to have been no explanation over the closure of the bars but many believe its because much of the beach-front land has been sold off for the building of expensive apartment blocks with seaviews.
“The problem is that the town hall gets a lot of taxes off the luxury apartments overlooking the sea and sand.”
From the bull-running in Pamplona to the tomato fight in Bunyol, Spain is renowned for its noisy fiestas and many bars and restaurants drum up trade with live music and flamenco dancing going on until the early hours.
Meanwhile, thousands of homes across the notorious N332 coast road in the less desirable built-up part of Punta Prima stand empty. Many were bought by British families before the property crash and now they have little chance of selling them.
Spain has the fourth largest number of empty homes in the world.
A total of 3,443,365 residential properties are sitting unoccupied across the Costas, equivalent to 13.66% of the total housing stock.
Only Malta, Greece and Mexico have more empty houses, according to a study by non-governmental global group Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos.