The Stoofstraat in downtown Brussels is usually a hive of activity. Souvenir shops stand cheek by jowl. It’s one of Brussels most fêted tourist traps, but today it stands idly by. The tourists are not welcome in Belgium, at least for the time being. On the souvenir shops where statuettes of a little boy passing water usually sell like hotcakes the shutters are firmly down.
Here are there you’ll still find one store that is open, vainly hoping for the custom of a lost tourist. The conclusion of the proprietor is clear: “Here, it’s as dead as a dodo. These are hard times. I don’t know how I will survive.”
Other traders mouth the word ‘catastrophe’. “I’m not selling nowt. We’re waiting for the return of the tourists. The days drag on. I stay open for the people from the neighbourhood.”
There’s concern many traders could go to the wall.
“We’re making about a fifth of our normal earnings. We can’t pay the rent. Stores have gone bankrupt because they can’t pay the staff” says one storekeeper.
The souvenir shop owners accuse the City of Brussels of letting them down and have put their message together with a takeover notice in their shopwindow.