Eindhoven restaurants, bars stay closed in fear of social distancing fines
Restaurants, bars and cafes on Stratumseind in Eindhoven are closing en masse out of fear for sky-high fines for non-compliance with coronavirus rules. More than half closed their doors on Thursday evening, Eindhovens Dagblad reports.
"I understand from the area manager that the first entrepreneurs will receive a warning by post [on Friday]," Tom van Brussel, chairman of the local business association, said to the newspaper. "If they make another mistake, a fine of more than 4 thousand euros will follow. We really can't take that now." The local catering businesses are doing everything they can to adhere to the rules, but customers are not having any of it. "They are done with all the restrictions and just sit down together," he said.
According to Van Brussel, catering entrepreneurs are furious about how they are being treated. "Walk into a supermarket or hardware store. Everyone is crisscrossing, but it is no problem there. We have to keep lists of everyone who makes a reservation, Albert Heijn doesn't have to. Business is made impossible for us. It hurts to close after months of forced closure, but there is no other way. It is not our job to tell people to keep a distance for their own health."
The Noord-Brabant catering industry sent a letter to the cabinet on Thursday stating that "1.5 meter distance is unworkable in our industry," Ruud Bakker of the Eindhoven department of hospitality association KHN said. "It is time for the government to intervene and give us the space to organize it in a different way," he said. We want the responsibility to lie with the guests themselves and it is time for customization. If you allow up to half the normal number of visitors, people can still keep enough distance."
According to Bakker, a survey of Breda catering establishments showed that visitors only keep to the rules in 7 percent of cases. "People are quite willing to keep some distance, but the strict 1.5 meter is unworkable in the catering industry. Nor can it be explained anymore. If an airplane with 300 people is allowed, but on the terrace you have to sit apart again."
In response, Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said that he empathizes with the catering entrepreneurs, but said relaxing the social distancing rule for their industry was not going to happen. "We have to stick to that. There are social distancing measures all over the world, which really are necessary," he said in The Hague on Friday.
He did concede that his team would investigate if the use of plexiglass shields could offer a different solution.