COVID-19’s Other Toll in Greece: Restaurants Closing Forever

ATHENS – When – or if – the COVID-19 pandemic ever ends, the aftermath in Greece will find far fewer restaurants, many set to close their doors permanently after a lockdown closed them up to 10 weeks and left only limited service after.

With a second lockdown looming if cases don't subside, Greece's renowned culinary landscape is set to show the devastating effects as restaurants as of Nov. 3 in hardest hit areas were closed again, except for deliveries and take-out.

Many were able to survive the first lockdown that began in March, using their savings as a buffer, but those have been wiped out for some establishments that have seen far less foot traffic even during the summer, with indoor dining barred.

The effects were portrayed in a report by the newspaper Kathimerini, which noted how hard hit tourism was and now also the catering sector with no public gatherings and limited for weddings and other functions being closed off.

Catering employs about 500,000 people while tourism is the biggest revenue engine and major workforce the economy relies up as it's set to shrink after being on the verge of a faster recovery from a near-decade-long economic crisis.

With far fewer tourists in the summer and residents shying away from going out to eat, restaurants were already in a precarious position, many unlikely to survive the new closings that are set for at least a month, the paper said.

The government has directed a 40 percent rent cut for businesses and establishments and suspension of contracts for workers but once they're allowed to open again restaurants will still have to pay 60 percent of the rent for the period when they were closed, leading many to just give up.

Delivery and take-out isn't enough to survive on, restaurateurs have said, estimating it brings in only about 10 percent of their losses, making staying open a losing proposition every day.

The next big worry for 2020 is that there will be a lockdown during the Christmas and New Year period that is a crucial earning period for businesses and restaurants, a 30 percent drop in sales seen, indicating 2021 will open to dark days and empty storefronts across the country.


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