ATHENS – One in 10 businesses in Greece's food sector, including bars, restaurants, taverns and other services have gone under because of three COVID-19 lockdowns seeing them forced to shut more than half the previous 12 months and many more are set to follow.
The third closing of non-essential businesses began Nov. 7, 2020 and its lenient measures saw Coronavirus cases rise so much it has been extended several times, now until at least March 15 but likely longer.
Some food businesses are barely surviving using take-out and delivery but even outdoor dining has been banned, now going into a fifth month with tentative plans to allow outdoor seating later in March.
There are about 80,000 food sector businesses and the government plans to stop subsidies and handouts at the end of March, which Kathimerini said could lead to a wave of closings just as spring begins, bringing mass layoffs and closings.
The Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) found that the food industry in 2020, when the pandemic was raging, lost some 2.28 billion euros ($2.71 billion,) a 37.7 drop from 2019 when there was another record tourism season.
A survey by the Small Enterprises Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (IME-GSEVEE) showed that for 90 percent of small food businesses the 2020 loss was 51.7 percent, unsustainable for many.
“The loss inflicted on the sector will only become evident in the next six months, and practically from the fall,” GSEVEE President George Kavvathas told the newspaper of how critical the situation is.
“Hope may spring eternal, and some entrepreneurs may try to save the day during the summer period, hoping for an increase in tourism,” he said, adding that 44.6 percent of food service owners worry they'll fail over the next six months.
With their debts mounting and any cash reserves or savings being drained, it's unknown how many food service outlets, bars or cafés will reopen once the lockdown ends, even if it is just for the summer tourism season, with worries they will be closed for Easter in May too.
GSEVEE data show that 43.24% of food service companies have no cash reserves left at all, relying on government aid to survive, unable to do so once that runs out and could close.