Setting up a business in sunny Barcelona is many people’s dream come true. But, as anyone who has bought or leased commercial property in Barcelona will tell you, there can be many processes and administrative hoops to jump through before you can realise your dream of opening in one of the one world’s most vibrant cities.
The Expat Magazine talks to Jordi Perez, Managing Director of GOBAI Group, a company which specialises in helping international clients open commercial businesses, to give his tips on how to navigate the process. So let’s explore more…
- Know your “barrios” (neighbourhoods)
Barcelona not a particularly large city, but it does have very distinctive zones known locally as “barrios”. If you consider that Spain, in general, has more bars (for example) per capita than any other country in the world and that Barcelona is one of its most touristic cities, you begin to understand that whilst you might not have a problem with foot traffic, you could have a lot of competition. The most popular part of town, unsurprisingly, is the old town or “Ciutat Vella”. But it is also the most expensive. Consider Poble Nou and the large Eixample area above the old town as alternatives. They are lively zones and you may find a better deal on your premises.
- Have a clear idea of what you want your business to be, as this will affect the type of licence you will need to have.
Ask yourself will this be a business which fits neatly into a category like a clothes shop? Or will it sell various types of products? This is important, as the simpler the concept the fewer issues you are likely to face. Licence-wise – with bars, cafés and restaurants you essentially have two options. You can purchase an existing licence – meaning you would buy the licence from the outgoing business of the premises you have found. The cost of the licence will depend on how valuable the outgoing 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 you 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 to 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.
- Make sure you have enough money
It can be expensive no matter which option you choose. A licence for a decent size bar/ café in a good area, with a lot of footfall, can cost tens of thousands of Euros, and a lot more in areas such as the Born and Gothic. Also, it is important to note that now in Ciutat Vella 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. You should really have enough money to buy the licence, do repairs or renovations and also run your business for 6 months whilst it is gaining customers and establishing its base.
- Shops and offices are usually easier to open than bars and cafes.
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 city council 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.
- Be prepared for the bureaucracy and to be patient.
Spain is known for its admin-heavy processes and expats buying here will need to be prepared to be patient as paperwork can take weeks to come through. A lot of people come to Barcelona expecting the same turnaround times as they have in their own countries but here, there can be a lot of back and forth. This is often due to dealing with older or even historic buildings which need special permissions.
- Take a local expert with you to the premises and to the council to ask about the licence
It is important to find the premises you are interested in and then take an engineer or architect with you to assess whether there might be any potential problems down the road. This is a good way to uncover any hidden costs for example you can find out if the previous owners had any debt which you might inherit when you take over the business, or there might be complaints against the building. These are things you will definitely want to know up front before you spend money fixing problems which you couldn´t have known about.
- Find a partner company that understands your vision
You are about to spend and risk a lot of money pursuing a new venture. Make sure you are working with a local company you can trust. There are many local expats groups who can offer impartial advice, but the best way is to meet with local companies and see who you feel best understands what you are looking to do. The service we offer, for example, can be 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 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. 930 25 86 04 www.gobaigroup.com