Drinking in public

Botellón [boh-tay-yone] (Spanish for ‘big bottle’), called ‘litros’ in Cantabria, is ‘mass meeting of young people between 13 and 24 years, mainly in open areas of free access, to consume drinks previously purchased in shops, listen to music, and talk.’ It emerged as an alternative to bars, discos or clubs, but normally is a previous step before going to such locations.

Although the origins of botellón started in Andalucia during the 1980s as a way for Andalucian workers to be able to enjoy a cheap drink outdoors instead of conforming to the prices that were offered in the bars, young people and especially students adopted it in the 90s, appearing for the first time formally in the city of Cáceres, in connection with the riots caused by the advance of the closing time for the nightclubs. Today it is a standard practice among the nightlife youth and even regulated in many cities.

Since botellón usually takes place at night, a law was passed to expressly prohibit the sale of alcohol to the public after 10pm. It can then only be purchased inside a club, pub, disco, etc. in which case alcohol cannot be taken outside. This measure is currently easily avoided by buying the drinks before the selling limit hour, and keeping it at a residence or inside a vehicle. Since the enforcement of this measure is usually strong only in the botellón area some shops far from the area will sell alcohol illegally after the limit hour, risking fines.

Recently, a law was passed which expressly prohibited the consumption on alcohol in the streets, excepting the local festivities. From that moment onwards people who chose to take part in a botellón risk a fine. The situation nonetheless has become so uncontrollable that recently the Mayor of Seville passed an act which prohibits the consumption of any kind of drink in the street. This resulted in ridiculous situations where bottled water is confiscated from adults.

Since most of these measures, including the prohibition of drinking in the street, have failed to stop youth from taking part in botellones, recently some authorities have begun opening special places where young people can make botellón without causing problems, usually in distant industrial parks. The term ‘botellódromo’ or ‘bottle track’ is starting to take effect in some cities as a way to keep this custom under control.


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