If you plan to grab a drink outside with friends one crisp winter evening, you may need to bring blankets. Some restaurants and bars are choosing not to turn on their patio heaters and heating lamps this winter due to the high cost of energy, according to Belgian media RTL Info.
Brussels bar owner Damien Coens states that his energy bill has more than doubled in the space of a year. “My energy bill has gone from €18,000 to €45,000. We’re not going to make it,” he warned. To cope with the rapid increase, he will have no choice but to leave his terrace unheated during the winter months.
“I think that today, heating my terrace will cost €200 per day. So there you go, you do the maths. I think it will save a lot of money,” he explained.
The restaurant sector across the country is generally anxious. Low attendance on outdoor terraces could lead to losses of up to 30% of their turnover.
“Restaurants and tenants are worrying about the economic problems that are setting in, and terraces are part of their worries: are they worth it in relation to the energy cost,” Luc Marchal, President of the Horeca Federation of Wallonia, told RTL Info.
There are fears that energy bills may ultimately serve to divide and conquer, as restaurants that can afford to heat their outdoor space steal customers from those who cannot. The federation is calling for a ban on the heating of outdoor terraces, in order to maintain a level playing field.
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Similar legislation already exists in France. As of March, French bars, cafés, and restaurants are no longer allowed to heat their terraces in a bid to save energy. Other cities are expecting to follow suit, with the city of Rennes enacting a similar ban.
In Belgium, it is down to the municipalities to decide whether they will prohibit businesses from heating their terraces. Last year, the city of Tournai stopped authorising hotels and catering businesses from installing outdoor heaters. Far from merely an expense, stopping outdoor heating, which is largely inefficient, will have a significant positive environmental impact.