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Spain's Financial Crisis Gobbling Up Top Eateries

By HAROLD HECKLE

MADRID (AP) â¿¿ Spain's bitter financial crisis is eating away at the country's high-end restaurant scene, with the owners of another top establishment saying it will have to close at the end of August.

A statement published on the website of the famed eatery outside Barcelona is blunt: "Can Fabes says goodbye."

Can Fabes' closure is the latest in a small but growing list that has seen the disappearance of celebrated eateries such as El Bulli, which was rated the world's best restaurant five times by the magazine The Restaurant until it served its last supper in July 2011 amid reports that it was too costly to run.

Spaniards take great pride in their cuisine â¿¿ the careful preparation of food is almost a national obsession â¿¿ and top chefs are celebrities among all classes. But Spain's economy has been in dire straits since the construction industry collapsed in 2008. Unemployment is at 27. 2 percent and people are increasingly unwilling to spend hard-earned cash on luxuries such as fine dining.

High-end restaurants are expensive to eat at, but they are also expensive to run, often with staff numbers equal to customers sitting at tables.

Since 2011, at least six famed Spanish restaurants have shocked the public by either closing or announcing they were on the verge of doing so. That includes three establishments among the roughly two dozen in Spain that have obtained the highly coveted two or three-star status from the renowned Michelin restaurant guide.

To Alberto Luchini, who edits one of Spain's best-known restaurant guides, that's an "ultrasonic speed" of loss for the country's high-end restaurants, and he expects the financial crisis to consume even more in the coming months. "By the time this crisis ends, the top-end concept will have changed, too," he said.

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