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On Portugal’s ‘Bitcoin Beach,’ Crypto Optimism Still Reigns

LAGOS, Portugal — Bitcoin Bam Bam Beach bar, on an uncrowded beach in southwestern Portugal, is the meeting place.

To get there, you drive past a boat harbor, seaside hotels and apartment buildings, then park near a laid-back seafood restaurant and walk down a wooden path across a sand dune. Yellow bitcoin flag blowing in the wind. Conversations about cryptocurrencies and a decentralized future are flowing.

“People are always in doubt about when to buy and when to sell,” said Didi Taihuttu, a Dutch investor who moved to the city this summer and is one of the owners of Bam Bam. “We solve that by being all-in.”

Sitting on the sand nearby, another bar regular, Katherin Stehig said, “Anything is possible if you’re brave.”

The bar and the community of some 150 cryptocurrency supporters in the city of Lagos are a bubble of optimism amid what is known as the “crypto winter”. This summer, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether melted, with crypto firms like experimental bank Celsius Network filing for bankruptcy as fears about the global economy drove down values ​​of risky assets. Thousands of investors were affected by the fall. The price of Bitcoin, which peaked at over $68,000 last year, remains below 70 percent.

But in this Portuguese coastal idyll, trust in cryptocurrencies remains unaffected. Every Friday around 20 visitors from Europe and beyond gather at Bam Bam to share their unwavering faith in digital currencies. His optimism and joy endure in Portugal and in other crypto centers around the world, such as Puerto Rico and Cyprus.

“We don’t sell,” said Paulo Estevão, a cryptocurrency trader, over lunch at a restaurant in the Portuguese coastal city of Ericeira, where he meets weekly with three other friends who invest in cryptocurrencies. He said his crypto holdings were down 80 percent from the peak, but added: “I’m investing more.”

In Europe, Portugal has stood out as one of the largest hubs for cryptocurrency investors and enthusiasts. Many cryptocurrency supporters flocked to the country because the government does not tax profits made from virtual currencies, unlike in Italy and France. It helps that the weather is beautiful, the cost of living low, and there is an easy path to residence. Vanguard Properties, a real estate company in Portugal, said it had sold at least 10 luxury homes to “crypto families” since last year. (Sales were previously reported by sieving.eu.)

In beach towns like Ericeira and Lagos, shops and restaurants show their acceptance of digital currencies by accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. Lisbon, the capital, has become a hub for cryptocurrency-related startups such as Utrust, a cryptocurrency payment platform, and Immunefi, a company that identifies security vulnerabilities in decentralized networks.

“Portugal should be the Silicon Valley of Bitcoin,” said Taihuttu. “It has all the ingredients.”

However, the Portuguese government may ruin the country’s status as a crypto hub. In May, Fernando Medina, the finance minister, said that the government was considering taxing crypto profits as regular income and “intends to legislate on this matter.” The decision could come next month when Portugal publishes its annual budget.

The Finance Ministry declined to comment on his plans.

For now, Portugal remains popular with bulls and amateur traders trying to use their cryptocurrency investments to travel and live without a traditional job. Using money made when digital currency values ​​skyrocketed in recent years, this group has turned Portugal into a base.

Many in Lagos, inspired by Mr. Taihuttu, 44, headed to the Bam Bam bar. In 2017, he sold almost all of his belongings in the Netherlands to invest in Bitcoin. At the time, the price of a single Bitcoin was around $900, up from $19,000 today. With his wife and his three daughters, who have received no formal education since 2017, he then traveled to 40 countries, recording every step on social media. They called themselves “the Bitcoin family”.

ace media covered his family’s story, Mr. Taihuttu’s social media following increased, making him an influencer and source of investment advice. A documentary film crew has followed him on and off for the past 18 months. This summer, he settled in Portugal and quickly became something of an ambassador for the crypto scene of it.

He has goals to turn Meia Praia, the beach where Bam Bam is located, into “Bitcoin Beach”. He is buying property to create a close community for his fellow believers.

“You show that it’s possible to run one part of the world, even if it’s just one,” said Mr. Taihuttu, Jack Daniel’s and Coca-Cola in hand. He has shoulder-length black hair and was wearing a tank top that showed off his tan and his tattoos (including one on his forearm of the Bitcoin symbol).

Ms. Stehig was one of the people that Mr. Taihuttu attracted to Portugal.

Originally from Germany, she said she and her family had been traveling since 2020. They had earned enough by investing in Ether and other cryptocurrencies in recent years to pay for their trips, she said.

The value of Ether has fallen by about 60 percent in the last year, which Stehig said was painful. She has cut costs for food and accommodation, but remains committed to investing in cryptocurrencies and said her family had enough money to continue her current lifestyle.

“We sold our house, our cars, our everything,” he said. “We’re trying to connect with other crypto-minded people.”

Nearly everyone at Bam Bam had a history of scamming or losing money in events like the collapse of Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange that filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after huge and unexplained Bitcoin losses. .

If crypto prices don’t recover, “a lot of them are going to have to go back to work,” Clinton Donnelly, an American tax attorney specializing in cryptocurrencies, said of some of those gathered at Bam Bam.

Still, Mr. Donnelly and other regulars at the bar said their belief in crypto remained unshakeable.

Thomas Roessler, dressed in a black Bitcoin T-shirt and drinking a beer “inspired by” the currency, said he had come with his wife and two young children to decide whether to move to Portugal from Germany. He first invested in Bitcoin in 2014 and more recently sold a small rental apartment in Germany to further invest.

Roessler was concerned about falling cryptocurrency values ​​but said he was convinced the market would recover. Moving to Portugal could lower his taxes and give his family a chance to buy affordable property in a warm climate, he said. They had come to the bar to learn from others who had taken the plunge.

“We haven’t met a lot of people who live this way,” Roessler said. He then bought another round of drinks and paid for them with Bitcoin.

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