Shopkeepers in Dordrecht rename the city to Antwerp: ‘We want to open’

“We just finished,” says Arien van Pelt, owner of Van Pelt hairdressers. Together with four other entrepreneurs from the city center of Dordrecht, he pasted stickers on a total of 90 street name signs.

This makes it seem as if the major shopping streets, such as Visstraat, Vriesestraat, Bagijnhof and Voorstraat are not located in Dordrecht, but in Antwerp.

According to Van Pelt, they represent about 450 entrepreneurs from Dordrecht.

‘Entrepreneurs are going broke’

With the playful action, shopkeepers and owners of catering businesses in Dordrecht draw attention to the problems they face as a result of the corona measures, not only in Dordrecht, but throughout the country.

“You see entrepreneurs going broke because of the debts they have built up,” says Van Pelt. “We are not closing our eyes to corona, but it seems that the bill lies with a group of people who in a number of cases have tons of debt, while it is difficult for them to make a turnover.”

He points to Belgium and Germany, where shops and the catering industry are open and where many Dutch people go to shop or have something to eat and drink.

Shopping by appointment

He understands that the Dutch do that, but according to the Dordrecht entrepreneurs, it is very easy to open shops in the Netherlands, by shopping by appointment, or by allowing a limited number of customers in stores.

Recently, Antwerp has been a top favorite for many Dutch people. It is only an hour’s drive from Dordrecht. But Van Pelt and his colleagues say that they do not only stand up for entrepreneurs from Dordrecht, but for shopkeepers and catering entrepreneurs throughout the country.

In addition to more flexible rules to be able to open, the activists want more compensation for entrepreneurs who are affected by the corona measures. “Entrepreneurs only receive limited compensation, we want more customization.”

‘Social disruption’

Mayors Van Pelt hopes that the cabinet will announce more flexible rules next Friday. Hopefully the letter that Mayor Wouter Kolff van Dordrecht sent to The Hague will help.

Next Thursday, the mayors of the large Dutch municipalities will meet with the cabinet about the corona approach. In that letter, Kolff says that he wants to make it clear with them that “the social disruption is really too great at the moment.”

More retailers have had it

Recently, there have been more protests from shopkeepers. Bookstores, for example, want to open, and shopkeepers from Bussum, among others, opened their shops in protest and drank a cup of coffee with customers.

Amsterdam shopkeepers have started a petition: they want to open again from next Friday the 14th.

Jenke Haverhals’ shoe store in Zwanenburg between Amsterdam and Haarlem is also ‘open as usual’, he tells RTL Z. “We can keep our distance here, it is safer here than in a supermarket.”

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