Spanish Shopkeepers Get a Rent Shock

The expiration of Franco-era rent controls is closing many stores
Photograph: Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images; Illustration by 731

Angel García, whose family has sold hand-tailored shirts since 1857, will be shutting his shop on Madrid’s Gran Via in the new year because his landlord is raising the rent almost tenfold. At the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, a rent-control rule introduced under dictator General Francisco Franco comes to an end, leading to financial turmoil for thousands of small-store owners. “This business has been in my family for four generations,” García, 89, says while standing in front of his shop window, where “closing down sale” posters are displayed instead of shirts. “It’s a sign of the times.”

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