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Top restaurants take legal action against the government

The Kasteel van Ruisbroek, on of the restaurants represented. © RN

More than 50 restaurants, including some top names, have come together to take legal action against the federal government for failing to provide support to compensate for the measures taken to combat the coronavirus.

The complaint alleges the federal government failed to step in, forcing the industry to turn to the regions, where differing programmes applied, L’Echo reports. As far as the federal government was concerned, the complaint states, the restaurants were left to their own devices.

The list of restaurants includes well-known names including La Villa Lorraine, Brasseries Georges, Le Mess, Enjoy, La Chaloupe d’Or and Le Chalet Robinson.

Not only do the restaurants complain they themselves were left in the lurch; the complaint also alleged incompetence on the part of the government in handling the Covid-19 epidemic. That resulted in a long lockdown at the start of the crisis, and another starting later in the year, which is still in force and entering its sixth month. In the meantime, restaurants have been forced to turn to alternatives like delivery and customer pick-up, neither of which is entirely appropriate for fine-dining establishments.

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The complaint, which targets home affairs minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) in particular, alleges that the federal government, which introduced the measures, then shirked its responsibility to adopt accompanying measures to support those affected.

The state made a decision, and it must take responsibility for it,” said Pascal Leduc and Pierre Humblet, lawyers for the establishments concerned. “It’s as if they had closed the restaurants by pinching their noses and turning away not wanting to know any more.”

As a result, the restaurants were faced with a loss of revenue while still having to face fixed costs. And while the coffers of the federal state remained closed, they were forced to turn to the regions for assistance. And that took different forms, most notably in Flanders, where compensation was higher than in Brussels and Wallonia.

The paper cites one comparison: the restaurant group Restauration Nouvelle obtained support worth €20,000 for four restaurants in the Brussels region. At the same time, it also obtained €130,000 for two restaurants in Flanders.

The operators of the catering establishments were completely left to fend for themselves by the federal state,” the complaint – delivered by the bailiff to Verlinden’s office yesterday, reads.

The complaint also includes a current of thinking now popular in legal circles, pointing out that the measures ordered were not legally valid, not having been approved by parliament. This week a court in Brussels ordered the government to shut down all corona measures within 30 days because they have no legal validity.

The restaurants’ complaint alleges the same.

The complaint calls on the court to find in the restaurants’ favour, and in return to impose on the government a provisional compensation of €5,000 per establishment, until the actual losses are calculated.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times