The Flemish government will insist on implementing the same closing time for the indoor and outdoor areas of the hospitality industry, according to Flemish Vice-Minister President Hilde Crevits.
At the previous Consultative Committee, it was decided that from 9 June, the indoor areas of bars and restaurants will have to close at 10:00 PM, while the terraces can remain open until 11:30 PM, but the sector has raised a number of questions about that rule.
“We are going to be consistent in our stance at the Consultative Committee this Friday, and we will argue that an equal closing hour would be better,” Crevits said in the Flemish Parliament on Wednesday, echoing similar comments made by Flemish Minister-President Jan Jambon last week.
“There are a few reasons for this,” she said. “The first is the epidemiological evolution, which is good.”
“Secondly, there will be a bizarre situation going on of people eating indoors suddenly having to go outdoors, combined with the European Championship,” Crevits said. “This can result in chaos outside, and that is precisely what we want to avoid.”
Additionally, it is a lot easier for the police to enforce the rules if everything closes at the same hour, according to her.
“A fourth element in this are party halls, which also fall under the protocols for the hospitality industry,” Crevits said. “They already have a lot of restrictions, and if they also have to stop at 10:00 PM… No one wants that.”
The issue of plexiglass or plastic screens between tables if they cannot be 1.5 metres apart will also be raised again. “For us, that could definitely be a solution, especially outside,” she said.
At the start of May, Belgium’s federal government was heavily criticised by politicians and the hospitality sector alike, as it communicated several last-minute changes to the sector protocol – including the fact that, contrary to last summer, plexiglass between tables would not be allowed – just a few days ahead of the reopening of the terraces.