Brussels restaurants and bars count the cost of a long lockdown as they reopenComments
Bars and restaurants can finally reopen their doors in Belgium as of Monday, one of the last European countries to do so.
In recent days owners have been frantically working to respect the new rules, which include keeping 1.5 metres between tables and a completely new set of cutlery for each diner.
At the Brasserie des Etangs, they used to have tablecloths and stainless steel cutlery, but now they will opt for disposable material.
Their capacity has been reduced to 70%, so many staffers won't go back to work just yet. Owner Coralie Michiels explains that they are trying their best to get everyone back to work full-time.
"It's certainly part-time for some. But it will evolve as the days go by and it will depend on the number of customers that we will have. "
After three months of lockdown, economic losses and social security checks have stacked up. Reopening involves an investment that not all restaurants can afford, and 30% are predicted to shut down.
“The cash flow is completely weakened," says Fabian Hermans from the HORECA federation, which represents the Belgian hospitality industry.
He explains that the measures necessary for re-opening are costly, and some of that cost should be shouldered by the state.
"If we cannot count on strong and firm support from the government, there are some who will not be able to afford this."
This is the case for Frédérick Da Soghe, owner of Stammbar in central Brussels. He calculates that the investment needed to be made on his bar would be around €6,000. The sector believes that 20% of the bars might remain closed until further relaxation of the rules.
"As we are a night bar, it is impossible for us to change the purpose and atmosphere of the bar, we prefer not to open than to set tables and invest in furniture that will not stay and will be a financial loss for us," he says.
Frédérick believes he can survive without opening in the next six months. But after that, he might be forced to close forever.