The City of Brussels’ Department for Hospitality is working around the clock to process the flood of applications for permits from businesses in the hospitality sector looking to expand their terraces to the public space before reopening on Saturday.
The federal government officially confirmed the relaxing of measures for the hospitality industry on 8 May, just ten days before terraces would reopen, which has resulted in a last-minute rush of applications for permits to expand outdoor seating areas.
“Almost all restaurants and bars in Brussels have requested such permits to expand their terraces to the public area, such as parking spaces,” an employee of The City of Brussels’ administration told the Brussels Times.
“But we are only with a team of ten people, and we are working seven out of seven days to process all the applications," he said, adding that employees are working during the weekend and until about 8:00 PM every night.
“Processing these applications takes a lot of time. Once we receive them, we have to go to inspect the location to see whether the terrace space can be expanded. But this isn’t the fault of these businesses that we are suddenly getting these applications so late on,” the employee added.
He argued that, instead, it is the fault of the government for waiting so long before officially confirming the reopening of terraces, which resulted in businesses having less time to sort out their applications for these expansions.
The short period to process applications rather than the vast amount of them is the bigger issue in this case, according to the employee.
“We received more applications last year, but that’s mainly because many bars and restaurants had only been out of business for about two months in 2020. Now it has been much longer, and a lot of these places now don’t have the money to expand terraces and create additional seating areas,” he explained.
The City of Brussels sent out an email campaign in January to ask businesses to start their applications early, “as we knew the terraces would be reopening at some point near the summer, but we got very little response to this,” the employee added.
He emphasised that these permits will only be put in place until 30 September, but that they may be withdrawn sooner if the vaccination rollout across Belgium gains pace.
“There is not a lot of space in the centre of Brussels, so in the summer we can expand terraces, but we need to find a balance between terraces and parking spots. If the situation improves, the terraces won’t need extra space, and then we can’t justify occupying public space with terraces,” he concluded.
From 8 May, after six months of closure, businesses in the hospitality sector will be able to reopen terraces between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM, and up to four customers can be served per table (exceptions will be made for households).