Restaurant owners in Belgium are gearing up to legally challenge their government-ordered and "discriminatory" month-long closure, claiming there is insufficient scientific evidence to back it.
Several businesses owners hit by the four-week closure said they will bring their case to Belgium's Council of State and push to fast-track its review by the country's highest administrative court.
The entrepreneurs, mainly active in the restaurant sector in Brussels and Wallonia, joined forces via an informal collective whose aim is to see the court overturn the government's recent tightening of rules, which they claim is discriminatory.
The Belgian government's most recent tightening of rules, which came into effect on Monday, will keep all bars, restaurants and cafes in the country shut down until at least 8 November, pending a review of measures in two weeks' time.
"In March the general lockdown impacted everybody — but, in this case, why is it only the horeca [the hotel, restaurant and café industry] that is targeted?" Clément Pesesse, one of the lawyers preparing the complaints, told 7sur7.
Pesesse also called out the government for putting businesses under increased stress by announcing that the measures would come into force "from one day to the other."
"The Belgian state is at fault here," he said, adding also that the collective believed there was a lack of factual data to justify closing down only food and drink establishments, echoing previous complaints from business owners in Brussels.
The collective also said that the measures announced this weekend by the government were "largely insufficient" to bring relief to businesses who have been hard-hit by on-and-off closures since the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March.
"With this action, we aim to defend not only the cafes and restaurants but also a whole string of businesses and companies that will be impacted by the general shut down of the horeca sector," a restaurant owner member of the collective said.
The group's is aiming to introduce their complaint on Tuesday and has received the backing of an employers' organisation, the Fédération Patronale Interprofessionnelle SDI as well as horeca federations in the provinces of Namur, Liège and of the Walloon Brabant.
The Brussels Times