Coronavirus: restaurants to stage 'cemetery' protest in Brussels' Grand Place

Coronavirus: restaurants to stage 'cemetery' protest in Brussels' Grand Place

Thousands of white chef's jackets will be strewn across the main square of Brussels in a protest staged to draw attention to how the coronavirus lockdown is suffocating restaurant sector.

The protest in the city's Grand Place will also aim to demand some perspective from government leaders regarding the conditions under which the catering industry may be allowed to resume activities.

Named 'I am dropping my chef's jacket' the organisers said that the protest, when seen from above, would give the impression of looking down into a cemetery.

"To this day, we have still not received precise information from the government regarding our deconfinement," the organisers wrote. "This failure from the government to assume responsibility is deadly."

The demonstration comes as Belgian governments begin to loosen lockdown restrictions, allowing some non-essential industries to begin work again.

Organiser Coralie Michiels, who runs the local restaurant group Restauration Nouvelle, told Le Soir that their idea was first to send a letter to the prime minister, but that with fellow organisers, they decided to go for something more eye-catching.

"We decided to go for a stronger image, over a thousand vests from all over the country will be laid flat on the ground, which, in looking down at the square, will look a bit like a cemetery."

Michiels said that those in the restaurant and catering industries were holding their breath each day for new regulations capable of offering the sector some perspective, adding that they decided to act now because they couldn't let their businssess "die little by little."

"We think that, since 13 March —when we are suddenly asked to shut down in 24 hours— and today, nothing much has changed," she said.

Since the lockdown was imposed throughout Belgium, restaurants and cafes were ordered to close down but take out and delivery were allowed to continue.

In press conferences, the government has earmarked June for a possible date to begin allowing restaurants, bars and cafes to return back to normal.

"Until now, we have only gotten an unconfirmed date, 8 June. It is more than time to know how everything will work going forward," she said. "Over 440,000 thousands direct and indirect jobs are on the line."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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