Politics

Pressure to reopen the catering industry is increasing: March 21, April 1 … or later?

There is pressure from all quarters on the government and experts to come up with a plan that will allow cafes and restaurants in Belgium to reopen their doors as soon as possible. The theme is already on the agenda next Friday, February 26, but it promises to be long and heavy discussions there.

On October 16 last year, the Consultation Committee decided to close pubs and restaurants in Belgium. At that time it was still “four weeks”, but now we are more than four months further and there is no prospect of a reopening of the catering industry in our country.

At the last Consultation Committee a little over two weeks ago, there was even nothing to be heard about the hospitality industry, except that “the other corona measures will be extended until April 1”. Nevertheless, the promise would have been made to discuss the catering industry at the next Consultation Committee on Friday 26 February.

Press from different angles

After that new Consultation Committee is no longer far away, everything is being done from various quarters to make the reopening of the cafes and restaurants a priority.

On Saturday, the AB Inbev brewery already demanded that cafés and restaurants in Belgium be allowed to reopen their doors on Thursday 1 April. “It is enough. The catering industry, suppliers and breweries are under enormous financial pressure. The catering industry must open again in a safe manner on April 1, ”said spokesman Pieter Anciaux at the time VTM.

Today it was the turn of trade organization Comeos. They want restaurants and cafes to be allowed to reopen on Sunday 21 March. as the first day of spring, that would already be a symbolic date. “The longer we wait, the greater the impact on society as a whole. The government must take that decision in the Consultation Committee on Friday and immediately announce it, because such a reopening requires a lot of preparation, ”says CEO Dominique Michel in HLN.

Cafes and restaurants

It is also striking that both Comeos and AB Inbev do not make a distinction between cafés and restaurants when it comes to reopening. The same sound could already be heard at Horeca Vlaanderen. Comeos does not like other solutions, such as only consuming on the terraces or only being open during the day.

Isopix

“Our proposal is to impose some additional measures on top of the already known ones, including a general closing time at 11 pm, everywhere in Belgium. We also see a mandatory CO2 meter to monitor air quality and chairs that are 1.5 meters apart back to back, ”says Michel.

Experts and politicians cautious

Whether the experts from the GEMS and the politicians on the Consultation Committee will heed these calls remains to be seen. They have been tempering expectations for several days and repeat that it is too early for new easing. Certainly now that the corona figures are starting to rise again, caution is advised.

The earliest date that can be heard from policy circles is April 5, the start of the Easter holidays. And even then it will be with very severe restrictions. For example, the Walloon political heavyweight Elio Di Rupo (PS) and Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) recently argued that only the restaurants should be reopened.

Comeos – if there really is no other option – even seems to want to accept that proposal. “Experts confirm that the situation in cafés is a bit different. Admittedly, after three beers it is a bit more difficult to respect the health measures ”, he concludes.

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