Even if the situation in Belgium's hospitals and the success of the vaccination rollout allows for the planned reopening of terraces on 8 May, there will be strict conditions that the hospitality sector will have to follow.
Although the conditions, which according to reports from Belgian media could include a closing time of 8:00 PM, will have to be confirmed by Belgium’s Consultative Committee on Friday, they are already a source of concern for bar and restaurant owners.
“Many owners were already hesitant to open, but now they have said they won't reopen if the conditions are this strict. Imposing them means reopening the terraces won't be profitable anyway, Erik De Rop of non-profit organisation Oude Markt Leuven told Radio 1.
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The main framework for reopening is similar to the protocol that was adopted in the summer last year, such as keeping a 1,5-metre distance between tables, explained Matthias De Caluwe, Managing Director of Horeca Vlaanderen.
“But the closing time will be a point of discussion. We have suggested 11:00 PM as it was before, as there was a logic to this. This gives people an hour before the ban on gatherings for more than three people starts,” said De Caluwe.
He added that, if terraces have to close at 8:00 PM, people will leave a controlled situation and “just sit in other public places as they do now,” uncontrolled.
De Caluwe also emphasised that a compulsory closing at 8:00 PM, without additional government support, is not profitable.
The three mandatory closing times that are currently being considered are 8:00 PM, 9:30 PM, and 11:00 PM, according to reports from Het Laatste Nieuws.
Speaking earlier in the week, however, the cabinet of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told The Brussels Times it is still too early to say anything about these particular conditions.
In the Netherlands, the government announced on Tuesday that from 28 April, terraces will be allowed to reopen, but only between 12:00 PM and 6:00 PM.
The Brussels Times