ATHENS — Still unable to open for indoor dining during what's left of a lenient COVID-19 pseudo-lockdown, the survival of thousands of Greek restaurants closed for more than half a year will depend on summer business.
They have been propped up by government subsidies during lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the pandemic but those will run out, leaving restaurateurs to hope tourists will come in big numbers.
“For now it appears that the number of vacant properties is quite small, as the support measures were sufficient for most professionals, especially in areas of high demand and popularity,” Panagiotis Tsaousis, Commercial Property Director at the Proprius property service company told Kathimerini.
Earlier in April, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that six out of seven businesses in the sector – amongst the hardest hit by lockdowns and unable to sustain themselves on take-out and deliveries, had gotten some state aid.
Restaurants now are allowed only outdoor dining with limited seating but some are so desperate they have ignored the health guidelines to pack tables and even are letting people inside, facing big fines if caught.
In February, Greek restaurant and cafe owners pleaded for additional government support to protect livelihoods and jobs after months of crippling restrictions on their businesses, the Reuters news agency then reported.
Some 80,000 restaurants and cafes in Greece, employing about 350,000 people, closed in September, 2020, after an earlier lockdown, and had been allowed to offer only delivery and take away services since.
“I can’t go on, we can’t go on,” cafe owner Dimitris Katsaros, 43, told the news agency of his desperate and frustrating plight as many people afraid of COVID-19 being on packaging won't even order take out for now.
“If the shop doesn’t operate we can’t eat, and we do not have 10-20,000 euros stashed away in savings and able to feed ourselves at the same time. If the shop is not operating then that is the end,” he also lamented.
At that time, to no avail, many restaurant and cafe owners collected the keys of their businesses and dropped them in boxes set up at a central Athens square and in other Greek cities and said they would give them to Mitsotakis in protest.
“With current government measures, 45 percent of businesses say they won’t be able to open again,” said Giannis Chatzitheodosiou, President of the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen.