Belgium's seaside bars, restaurants and cafes have flagged that they no longer wish to open their terraces 'early' during the Easter holidays, despite a growing push from local mayors in favour of the idea.
The proposal - first brought to light in the past weeks - suggested that by opening terraces during the Easter holidays tourists could be more spread out. This movement stemmed from an initial point by Mayor of Flemish coastal municipality of Middelkerke Jean-Marie Dedecker, who had already said that he would allow the cafés and restaurants in his commune to set up their terraces and that he would also authorise the reinstallation of the beach bars, even if current measures don’t allow people to visit them.
Now, following an industry meeting, the sector has said it does not want to open early after all.
"We saw that the majority of the owners want certainty. If we open during the Easter holidays, there must be certainty that the rest of the catering sector can open on 1 May," Bart Boelens of Horeca Middenkust told VRT.
"But when we see the figures now, we cannot give that certainty. And then the vast majority is of the opinion that it would be better if the entire catering industry, both indoors and outdoors, could open on 1 May. Otherwise, we risk having to close everything by then because the figures are bad: nobody wants that!"
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This news comes hot on the heels of a statement by Federal Public Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, who warned that opening up terraces earlier is definitely out of the question due to rising figures in Belgium.
He said the number of people testing positive with the virus, up by 21% from last week, and the number of hospitalisations in the past few days is “very disturbing”, according to De Morgen.
“If we want to reopen secondary schools after the Easter holidays, then we have to be more careful today. Otherwise, we will not get there. Talks about reopening terraces are totally out of the question,” said Vandenbroucke.
If all goes well, the hospitality sector in Belgium should be able to open from 1 May, according to the deconfinement timeline set out earlier this month. Further discussion is expected during the next Consultative Committee meeting, which will take place on Friday 26 March.
The Brussels Times