The Council of State has rejected an appeal brought by representatives of the hospitality sector in Belgium against the order to close all bars and restaurants, introduced on 18 October.
The case was brought in the name of Brasserie Flandria, which describes itself as “a hip brasserie/eat easy bar in the heart of Roeselare,” in West Flanders.
On the website of the business, the owners state, “The managers of Brasserie Flandria are going to the Council of State to contest the decision of the federal government to close the catering industry for a month.”
The application is for an interim interdict of the government order, which would suspend it while the case was heard, given the urgency of the case.
“The chance of success is minimal, but we don’t want to let ourselves be abused,” said the owners, brothers Jan-Willem and Louis Pauwelyn.
The applicants argued that the order was in breach of three basic principles: the principle of due care, the principle of proportionality, and the freedom to do business in the catering industry.
“We have already had to close for four months, and now we have to shut the doors again,” the brothers write.
“That is extremely hard. We are still young and have worked very hard in recent years, and invested heavily in our dream. We have managed to develop it into a thriving business. It wasn’t always easy, but we kept going.”
Even the first wave of measures, which introduced the closure of the whole sector in an unprecedented action previously unseen even under Nazi occupation, the business bounced back, the brothers said.
“Hand gel, face masks, registration forms, distancing, screens, we did it all. Now we just want to keep on doing our job,” they write.
“A new lockdown means it’s over for us.”
In a separate case joined to the main case, the applicants, the restaurant Mainego in Lessines in Hainaut province, called into question the authority of the minister concerned with the first closure in March – home affairs minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V).
“The Council of State also rejects the seriousness of a plea concerning the Minister’s authority, without however actually having been able to examine that competence, in view of the formulation of the plea,” the judgement reads.
The Council of State, whose role is to scrutinise the acts of government at all levels, rejected arguments on the epidemiological justification for the closure as being outwith its powers, and ruled simply on the right of the government to take health measures.