Many hospitality businesses may refuse to close at 8 p.m. to protest Covid measures
Many catering businesses are not expected to adhere to the new obligatory closing time of 8 p.m. which applies nightly from Saturday in the Netherlands. The rule was put in place as part of a package of measures meant to cut the dramatically high number of coronavirus infections which reached an all-time high this week.
Entrepreneurs in various cities, including The Hague, Leeuwarden, Zwolle and Breda, responded to calls for comment from ANP. Many made it clear they do not intend to close their doors by the cut-off time.
Dozens of entrepreneurs in the Leeuwarden hospitality sector will not close their doors on Saturday at 8 p.m. in protest, Omroep Fyslân reported. "We are done with this," catering entrepreneur Ton Eijer said. "We showed that we can open safely; there have barely been any infections in our sector.”
The group consisting of 40 business owners will voice their disapproval by staying open later than the new restrictions allow. Eijer said he is not concerned about getting a fine for breaking the rule. "We want to send a message. We are angry. It was going smoothly."
Dennis Kaatman, a bar owner in Zwolle, also pointed to this shortcoming in the policy. According to him, many pubs in Zwolle are still open after 8 p.m. "How can you shut us down if nothing is known about compensation yet." Kaatman points out in particular that the wet sector is being hit hard. "We understand that something has to be done to get the corona figures down. But this is not the way. The pot is empty." Kaatman also says that he is "just getting back on track". He also fears for the incomes of the ambulant employees who have become insecure. For example, many of the staff are students and dependent on wages.
Hospitality entrepreneur Johan de Vos, who also represents the Breda branch of catering industry lobbying group KHN, said the Cabinet policy is inexplicable. He said he is sympathetic towards the problems faced by healthcare workers, but during the press conference on Friday he felt there was little mention of health sector problems. It was mainly about the restrictions for the catering industry.
De Vos also pointed to previous promises that were made by officials. "We were to be rid of the measures by November 1. As an entrepreneur you hire people again, you place your orders to stock up, and then you get this." The lack of clarity about support for the sector was especially unnerving to De Vos and other entrepreneurs.
Maarten Hindeloopen of the KHN branch in The Hague also said he believes several entrepreneurs in the city will not stick to the new closing time. The worst that can happen is that you get a warning, he claimed. He also pointed to the lack of a compensation plan. "We will close at 8 p.m. if the Cabinet also comes with clarity," he said.
The national office of KHN understands the business owners’ concerns, and the reasoning behind decisions not to close at 8 p.m. KHN chair Robèr Willemsen stated that few coronavirus infections can be attributed to the sector.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday that they wanted to cut off as many moments when people are physically near each other as possible without hindering education, daytime work, and other aspects of daily life.
Essential stores and catering businesses have to close their doors at 8 p.m. for the next three weeks and non-essential stores must close at 6 p.m., according to the new coronavirus measures. Theaters and cinemas do not have to follow the 6 p.m. closing hour.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.