The protest headed for the square outside the Steen Castle on the quays of the River Schelde (Scheldt). Baptist Van Emrik of the Kids Rhythm & Blues Kaffee on the Market Square explains the significance of this location: “The minute the sun is out, large crowds gather with a bottle of wine or a beer. Why can’t we reopen? It’s better people head for pavement cafes and terraces where everything is corona secure and happens in a controlled environment than when people gather on squares or along the quayside.”
The hospitality industry is struggling financially too.
“We’re just keeping afloat. We use the grant to pay the most important bills, but I can’t pay the rent. At the weekend I do takeaways. Customers and suppliers show their support. It warms your heart.”
“If people are coming outside anyway and given the safety measures in which hospitality has invested, we should be able to open our terraces at Easter, shouldn’t we? If people need to do a pee, they can do it in a controlled environment.”
“There’s a psychological aspect too. Landlords need to see light at the end of the tunnel, allow them to start slowly with a view to the summer. You see the desperation in people’s eyes. If creditors demand their share the minute hospitality reopens, places will go to the wall. Businesses will certainly close after the summer” says Van Emrik.