The management of the largest open-air market in the country, under the roof of the slaughterhouse in Anderlecht in Brussels, has welcomed the decision of the national security council to drop the maximum number of stalls allowed to be present at a street market.
In the government’s phase three of the relaxation of the lockdown measures, markets were allowed for the first time since March, but with a limit of 50 stalls. Market operators were disappointed and somewhat mystified. A street market is an open-air event, and social distancing is a problem, but is not any more serious with 100 stalls than with 50.
Now in phase four, the restriction is gone. That’s good news to most urban markets which count many more than 50 stalls on a normal day. For the biggest markets of all, such as the Abattoir market in Anderlecht, the Midi market by the South station or the Schaerbeek market on Rue Royale Sainte-Marie (soon to move house to make way for roadworks) the news is a life-saver.
“We are relieved and happy, especially for the traders who have so far fallen by the wayside,” said Abattoir spokesperson Paul Thielemans.
“Until now, we had to organize two separate markets, each with 50 stalls. While normally there are about 400 stalls in the market. So it’s good news that everyone can take their permanent place again. And that will also mean that there will be fewer queues at the stalls, because there are now many more stalls.”
The previous reduced version was loss-making, he said.
“We had a lot of extra costs for materials and extra staff. Now we will be profitable again.”
But while the number of stalls is now unlimited, other conditions are not yet clear.
“We will have to sit down with the city authorities and the police to see what’s possible. For sure we have to look at how it will be with face masks. Up to now both stall-holders and visitors were obliged to wear one. Whether than obligation is still necessary, remains to be seen,” he said.