In parts of the Albanian capital of Tirana, up to half of all cafes are closing due to rising costs – including energy and products used – and falling expenses as Albanians tighten their purse strings, according to the Bar and Restaurant Association.
Albania is a nation of coffee drinkers and home to the highest number of cafes per capita – an impressive 654 per 100,000 people. Or at least it was.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the entire country plunged into lockdown for nearly two months with a series of restrictions including curfews, table spacing requirements and the mandatory wearing of masks, which harmed the industry. Following the pandemic, the cost of living crisis has seen inflation soar while wages remain among the lowest in Europe, and a third are at risk of falling below the poverty line.
Enri Jahaj, a representative of the Association of Bars and Restaurants, told the weekly Monitor that due to the decline in turnover in the capital, many service structures are rented out, as it is not profitable for the owners to keep the business.
“In the Kinostudio district, almost half of the premises are rented. The situation is similar in other districts, in the center or in the Kombinat. Not only bar and bar businesses but also restaurants, lounges, nightclubs are in shock from the drop in consumption. »
“The Albanians have no more money to spend. On the other hand, with the high prices for owners, it is not easy to keep the trade open. The closure of businesses will not only continue this year but also for 2023,” he said.
According to data from the Ministry of Finance and Economy, coffee imports from January to June 2022 decreased by 7% compared to the same period the previous year. However, they are higher than the first year of the pandemic.
The current drop in imports is mainly attributed to the closure of cafes across the country. But it’s not just high prices that put coffee culture at risk. Mass emigration means a shortage of workers, including baristas and servers.
A walk through Tirana shows many empty cafes with signs in the window looking for staff. Yet, with thousands of Albanians leaving the country each month, filling vacancies is becoming increasingly difficult.