Coronavirus NL/ Bar owners distressed over new closing time
Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Food and drink establishments in the Netherlands cannot admit new customers after 21:00 and must close by 22:00 starting Tuesday 29 September, according to the latest corona measures announced by PM Mark Rutte and health minister Hugo de Jonge in Monday’s press conference. This measure will be in force for three weeks, after which it will be reviewed, but opposition to it is already strong.
With almost 3,000 daily new infections in the last week and a sharp rise of positive tests in the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague, the Netherlands is currently one of the biggest Coronavirus hotspots in Western Europe, according to a study by RTL Nieuws.
“We are in danger of playing catch-up with the virus”, said PM Rutte as he emphasized the need for nationwide measures, in Monday’s press conference. The country now follows the examples of France, Spain and Greece in introducing earlier closing times for bars and restaurants, in order to reduce overcrowding without going into a second lockdown. According to the new restrictions, food and drink establishments nationwide must not allow new customers after 21:00 and must close by 22:00 for three weeks at least, before the measure is reviewed.
“It’s a slap in the face and it’s going to be a last-man-standing kind of thing”, says Groningen-based bar owner Christian Kok, who fears that a lot of his colleagues will have to struggle again, just as they were finally getting back on their feet after the lockdown.
“I think closing at 12:00 makes way more sense”, he adds. In his experience, that’s when it starts getting rowdier and harder to make customers comply with measures. “I don’t expect infections to go down. The government is trying to look strong, but this is all symbolic”, he says.
Another Groningen-based cafe owner, Max de Witte, points out that “People have the need for a social get-together anyway -it’s much better to let them do this in a controlled environment”. He is referring to socially irresponsible house parties and the efforts he has made to ensure customers enjoy their night out safely: Improved ventilation system, plexiglas around sitting areas, disinfectants in every table, toilet availability notification system. And yet, he now has to close early every night even though unruly house parties are the real cause for concern, he says.
Hans Coenraads, the Groningen mayor’s spokesperson, seems sympathetic to the plight of bar and restaurant owners. “It’s not a nice measure to take, but we have to do something to decrease the number of infections”, he comments.
Perhaps mayor Koen Schuiling will write business owners an encouraging letter, one friendlier than the letter he wrote to Groningen students scolding them about not observing social distancing in cafes and restaurants, just a week before the new restrictions were announced.
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