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COVID19: A third of restaurants, bars will not open as lockdown eases

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Restaurants, pubs and bars can open for business as the COVID-19 lockdown comes to an end, but around 40% will not open either because they don’t have outdoor facilities or rely on non-existent tourists.

From Thursday, restaurants, cafes and bars with outdoor facilities are able to welcome customers but a large number of businesses will stay shut as their outdoor facilities are not capable of accommodating more than 2-3 tables under the new health protocols on social distancing.

According to stakeholders, up to 40% of some 8,000 restaurants and bars will not open during the second stage of relaxing restrictive measures, especially in the once-bustling tourist resorts like Ayia Napa that have become ghost towns.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, Lena Panayiotou from the employers federation OEB said the majority of businesses have rearranged their outdoor facilities to adhere to the Health Ministry’s decrees, and are ready to welcome customers.

However, a large percentage of these businesses either do not have an outdoor facility or they are not big enough to accommodate more than a couple of tables.

She said that their decision to reopen is linked to the support measures of the Ministry of Labour and the incentives for companies which have suspended their operations.

But some bars and restaurants will not be able to pay the bills if they reopen without a serious income.

Based on official data for 2018, there are 5,212 businesses active in the catering sector (restaurants, taverns, etc.).

There are another 905 fast-food outlets while cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs are estimated at around 1665.

There are some 40 takeaway food businesses and 49 catering services across the island.

Panayiotou said businesses active in the catering and hospitality sector will need all the support they can get from local authorities and the government.

“We have held a teleconference on Wednesday with the majority of municipalities and other local authorities in an attempt to seek their support,” said Panayiotou.

“Measures discussed include tax relief on dues to local authorities, whilst we have asked local authorities to allow restaurants to temporarily take up some pavement space and other public areas such as squares,” she added.

The president of Leisure Enterprises Phanos Leventis welcomed the government’s decision to include bars in the list of businesses to reopen after they were initially excluded from the list due to concerns that bars would operate without tables and chairs which would mean that people would mingle.

“Concerns were addressed by our association, as bars were not included in the initial list of businesses to open on Thursday as the health services were concerned that the nature of bars would see people moving around from table to table.”

Leventis said his association reassured the authorities that all measures have been taken as customers will be seated at tables outdoors.

He said this arrangement will still see at least 40% of businesses in the sector opting not to open as they do not have large outdoor facilities to accommodate more than a handful of clients.

“Also, the majority of businesses in tourist areas will not open, as there will not be any foreign tourists in these areas.”

Leventis said that businesses in popular holiday spots Ayia Napa and Protaras will suffer the most.