The Amsterdam restaurant using individual greenhouses for social distancing
With reporting by Jamie de Geir & Zack Newmark.
With Dutch restaurants, bars and other catering services engulfed in uncertainty over how they might adjust to the 1.5-meter society, one Amsterdam restaurant is set to experiment with a brand new way of condoning off its guests: Using enclosed greenhouses.
Mediamatic ETEN, part of a larger arts and entrepreneurship center focusing on sustainability, is a vegan restaurant located on the Dijksgracht in the Oosterdok neighborhood of Amsterdam. From May 21, the restaurant will begin taking in guests, only this time they will be seated inside Serres Séparées ('separated greenhouses'), enclosed glass structures each equipped with a table for two or three diners.
"This was one of the most feasible ideas from a large list of ideas we had when brainstorming," Mediamatic's founding partner Willem Velthoven told NL Times, pointing out that the public reception has so far been enthusiastic. "We only had tickets for June and the last week of May online and they are now all sold out," he said.
Initially, no more than three guests will be allowed to dine inside each greenhouse, even though there is the capacity for more. "[This is] is because we are now careful with our optimism," Velthoven explained.
"We have other, bigger greenhouses, but using them depends on how everything ends up going. Bigger groups could [come] now but then they should be families. For now, bigger groups are being discouraged because, from our experience, they are just louder and then you get the excited behavior causing spittle to fly and so on, and that's the kind of behavior that would make the virus spread faster," Velthoven said.
As restaurants and bars across the Netherlands begin deliberating on ways to reopen, many different proposals have come to the fore. Catering industry association KHN told NL Times, "We sent a protocol to the government two weeks ago, containing advice on how best to open the 1.5 distance. It is crucial that the government provide perspective quickly."
While KHN said it would not yet advise restaurants to reopen on June 1, renowned catering tycoon Laurens Meyer told AD last week that restaurants and bars ought to begin taking steps as soon as possible to reopen, in order to support people whose livelihoods depend on the catering industry.
While Meyer expressed support for the industry's adherence to the 1.5 society, he nonetheless questioned the idea of people becoming too careful with space.
"We have to realize that there will always be some kind of virus. Whether it is worse than the flu, we have to see. If there is nothing left of our economy, we will no longer be able to afford health care and that will also cost human lives," explained Meyer.
Velthoven, on the other hand, disagrees with Meyer's approach, urging caution before advising restaurants to to open their doors to the public without careful examination. "It's about others and not just yourself in this case," he said.
He was also critical of a proposal floated last week by Amsterdam nightclub owners who wanted to open their doors to people under 30 years of age. "But those people can still spread the virus. I think if you say that you haven't thought about it clearly, or you are just an irresponsible person."
Velthoven also understands the business argument, even though he has spent a career looking for creative solutions to problems instead of blunt responses. He ultimately wondered what the government's plan is for the catering sector if those businesses are ordered to stay closed for a longer duration. If billions of euros are being diverted to KLM, he wonders what the government will be able to do to bail out his industry.
"If I am not allowed to do anything the rest of this year, it's finished," he lamented.