The operators of Belgium’s night-shops will gather in Brussels tomorrow to demonstrate against rules imposing a closing time of 22.00 which they claim are killing their businesses.
The rule was introduced by the National Security Council in late July, ostensibly to curb the drinking of alcohol on the streets after bars has closed at 01.00.
That rule was triggered by scenes at Place Flagey and Anderlecht in Brussels, when young people had gathered en masse at closing time, stocked up with alcohol from local night-shops and carried on partying with no regard for the rules on social distancing or mask-wearing.
After the NSC met, it was announced that while pubs and restaurants could stay open until 01.00, night-shops would be required to close at 22.00. According to the rules already in force prior to the coronavirus pandemic, night-shops were only permitted to open at 18.00.
“We want to be treated in the same way as catering establishments and petrol stations,” according to Parmjeet Gurmeet, one of the organisers of the demonstration.
“If they can stay open until 01.00, why not us? There is no evidence that we play a role in the spread of the virus.”
Earlier, the government had proposed a compromise, allowing the night-shops to open earlier in the evening. But the operators pointed out that their unique selling point was their availability when other shops were closed. Nobody, they said, would want to shop in a night-shop when the ordinary shops were still open.
The operators now plan to gather in front of the Finance Tower in Brussels tomorrow at 13.00, their numbers limited to 200 although the rules allow 400 at an outdoor event.
“This scheme is an absolute death-blow for these people,” lawyer Walter Van Steenbrugge, who represents the operators, told Bruzz.
“Especially when you see that supermarkets can sometimes stay open until 21.00. So they have to keep their doors closed during their best hours. The measure is totally out of proportion to the goal they want to achieve. The situation is totally discriminatory. We are therefore considering new legal actions to claim damages,” he said.