Closure of Brussels bars leaves many questions unanswered

Proprietors of bars in the City of Brussels will receive a 2,000 grant now that they have had to close their establishments for a month on the order of the regional government in an attempt to arrest the spread of coronavirus.   

Meanwhile hospitality industry body Horeca Brussels is receiving countless queries from members uncertain if they are affected by the order that means all bars, teahouses, coffee bars and cafeterias need to close across the Brussels Region.

Industry body Belgian Brewers is asking for corona measures to be taken on the basis of clear data and for no distinction to be made between bars and restaurants.  Under the Brussels government measures restaurants can stay open.

The Belgian Brewers are seeking ‘evidence-based policies’.  They claim evidence showing bars are a hotspot for corona transmission is lacking.  The industry points to official figures in the Netherlands that show that only 3% of transmissions are linked to hospitality and has asked for the figures on which current policy decisions are taken to be released.

Unizo, the organisation championing independent traders, alleges that bars in Brussels are paying the price for ‘a failing battle against coronavirus in the capital and a number of Brusselers who are flouting the rules’.

VRT quizzed the opinion of drinkers in Brussels as bars closed last night.  One drinker told VRT the decision to close all bars in the capital was ‘very stupid’ and added the earlier closing time for bars outside the capital ‘wouldn’t be very effective’ either. 

Another drinker expressed comprehension for the decision but added: “I live alone and most of my contacts are the result of visiting pubs and restaurants.  It’s hard.”

Another gentleman had a solution: “I live in Vilvoorde” - Outside Brussels where the bars can stay open- “I’m inviting all the people of Brussels to my favourite watering hole.”

The possibility that numerous Brussels drinkers may simply head further afield, beyond the region, to socialise is a concern.  In Ninove (East Flanders) the local police intend to augment controls to make sure punters stick to the rules.

“You can’t stop people from making the journey to Ninove, but they must behave and comply with the rules” said Mayor Tania De Jonghe.

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