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Open-air drinking moves to Puerto Marina for the summer months

News date: Wednesday, 21st of July, 2004

The local authorities estimate that 5,000 people congregate at the spot on weekend nights

They take over the sunbeds until around 3 a.m.

Ten euros a head provides enough funds for bottles of alcohol, some soft drinks and, stretching it a bit, a couple of bags of ice. It comes out at three-quarters of a bottle of drink each. “It’s a question of psychology. You have to get used to the idea that you are going to drink it all - although if you down it all in one go you end up in an ambulance”, says a student from Jaén, 24-year-old Juan José Contreras, who is sharing a drinking session with two old friends.

Nothing is forgotten. Some of them even bring cold boxes so that the ice lasts through the heat of the night. But the hardest part is to find a sunbed that it free to set up camp. The chosen site is Puerto Marina beach, the main venue for night-time, open-air drinking sessions this summer. “This gets packed at night”, explains Juan José. “You have to come early to grab a place.”

Under every sunshade and on every sunbed industrial quantities of alcohol are consumed from midnight onwards. The local authorities estimate that every weekend night around 5,000 young people take over Puerto Marina beach for open-air drinking. The area where the bars are situated, the next step up in the scale of night-spots, is close by. Around three o’clock in the morning, when everybody is well away, the party breaks up and they move on to the bars.

The night-time drinking scene around the Puerto Marina leisure area has certain special features: there are no packed squares and no tarmac; everybody is happy on the sand. In summertime many of the young people come from elsewhere; most of them are either on holiday or live in nearby resorts. “We’ve come to the beach the three nights we’ve been in Benalmádena”, says 17-year-old María Pidal from Madrid, who is on the coast for a few days for a rest - or to live it up, depending on how you see it - with some friends. The first thing they ask about when they arrive anywhere is where the night-time drinking scene is.

It is not hard to track down. From midnight onwards Puerto Marina beach is packed with young people loaded down with bottles. Drawn by the music, they congregate as close as possible to the night-spots. Saturday is, of course, the big day, although Thursday, called “women’s day” as they get in free everywhere, is also marked in red, as is Friday.

Puerto Marina is actually a strategic spot. The sunbeds provide a certain amount of privacy - not one is free after 1 a.m. - and the discotheques are a stone’s throw away. Moreover it is easier to stand the heat by the water’s edge. “It’s much cooler here, even though you do get covered in sand”, explains one youth. But the main point in its favour is that it is cheap. “Two drinks in a bar cost the same as what we spend here downing drinks for hours”, says Belén Gallardo, one of María’s drinking companions. “If the drinks were cheaper we would go to the discotheques first”.

Javi is in charge of collecting the funds from a group of friends. The role of the organiser has not fallen to him by chance. “In the shops you have to show your ID card to be sold alcohol and only three of us are over 18”, he explains. The proportions of the menu depend on elementary calculations - “one bottle of - in this case - whisky for three.”

The other night everything went well, but it doesn’t always happen like that. If the young people get organised too late they have difficulty finding the booze. Shops are banned from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. “We know somewhere in Malaga where you can buy it late but in Benalmádena we don’t know anywhere”, says one of them, who would rather not be named. “It’s a nuisance when it’s too late and you can’t organise anything”, he concludes.

For many of these young people embarking on a night out without alcohol inside them is unthinkable. It’s a sort of ritual before going to the bars. In some circles it is even referred to as “the culture of night-time street drinking”. The young people themselves defend the social aspect of this habit fervently. “Above all else it is a question of meeting like-minded people and the conversation is very varied”, points out Luis Vizcay, aged 21, who is from Pamplona. Luis arrived on the coast to meet some friends from Malaga. “We talk about a huge range of subjects, even philosophy, but above all, the opposite sex.” His fellow traveller, Andrés Riezu, interrupts: “or their absence..... The last time was in fact here, last year, during a night-time drinking session...”.

The peak

A peak of activity is reached between one and two in the morning. The pace of consumption speeds up and then slows down as supplies run out; it is time to leave. Then the gangs of young people make for the surrounding night-spots and discotheques. “We are well away when we get to the bars, enough to get through the rest of the night on just one more drink”, comments Belén Gallardo.

Each group has its own itinerary, sometimes planned out beforehand. “From here we’ll be going to La Botellita or La Cueva Latina, and the night ends at Maná or at Maraca”, explains Adrián Mellado, age 20, the fund collector of the group.

When they have moved on, the other side of the phenomenon raises its ugly head. Dawn reveals a beach strewn with empty bottles, plastic bags and cups. Very few of the young people bother to clear up their litter. “I know I’m awful, I forget to pick everything up when we leave”, admits 20-year-old Antonio Ortega.

But the young people know nothing about what happens to the mess. Andrés Riezu is aware of that: “We get up at four o’clock in the afternoon so we don’t see it.” The young people do, however, believe that the beach is where they are the least nuisance to the neighbours. “If we meet up in a square we annoy the residents, which is what happens in Madrid”, points out 21-year-old álvaro García.

However as long as they have a few bottles of alcohol anywhere will do as far as they are concerned. But the beach is the obvious spot, says Javier Montosa from Malaga. “We prefer to stay on the wall at the seafront promenade so as not to get covered in sand, but the police always shoo us away”. When that happens they move camp, and the night goes on....

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