'Unacceptable:' Government criticised for management of reopening terraces

'Unacceptable:' Government criticised for management of reopening terraces
Credit: Jules Johnston/The Brussels Times

The federal government has been criticised by politicians for its communication with local authorities and businesses in the hospitality sector ahead of terraces reopening on Saturday.

According to Bart De Wever, the Mayor of Antwerp, the government has not sufficiently communicated with local authorities on the legality of terraces reopening.

"As of midnight, the mayors must apply a ministerial decree that has not yet appeared. We have been in this crisis for over a year...," De Wever said on Twitter on Friday.

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The City of Brussels' councillor for Commerce, Fabian Maingain, on Friday denounced "the amateurism of the federal government" on the rules of reopening of the terraces.

He argued that the protocol applicable to the reopening of terraces is still unclear, including the placement of plastic screens between tables, of which Federal Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne said on Friday that the installation was no longer allowed. 

"It is an understatement to say that the conditions for reopening are a crucial question for many restaurant owners who were waiting to know these conditions to know whether they were able to open or not," Maingain said, according to reports from Belga News Agency.

According to Maingain, who received the protocol for reopening of terraces on Thursday, the possibility of using plastic screens between tables if the 1.5 metre distance between tables cannot be respected on the terrace was mentioned, and he argued that this protocol must be adhered to, allowing a serene and profitable reopening for a maximum number of businesses.

"Now, this confusion within the government is once again causing trouble less than 24 hours before the opening, which is unacceptable," Maingain said.

The mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clerq, responded to the last-minute change to the protocol, saying this would not be immediately enforced in Ghent.

"Hospitality operators have prepared themselves in good conscience in accordance with those protocols. We are going to give them time to adjust. Our catering coaches will enter into a dialogue with the owners," he said on Twitter.

Maingain also pointed at the unfairness of the partial reopening, which "leaves many establishments in disarray. Between those who cannot open because of the lack of a terrace and those for whom it is not profitable, the situation of Brussels' hospitality establishments is difficult."

On Thursday, Brussels MP Gilles Verstraeten criticised the way the curfew in the city would be lifted on Saturday, where it will still apply on Friday evening at 10:00 PM before it expires at midnight when Saturday officially starts.

“This is a Belgian joke, and not even a good one,”  he said on Flemish radio on Thursday morning. “My tolerance for such absurdities has reached its lowest point by now.”

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