ATHENS – With many Greek restaurants, bars, taverns and caterers closed nearly eight of the previous 12 months in COVID-19 lockdowns on the edge of going under despite state subsidies, the government may let them open after Easter.
That would bring a May 3 conditional reopening, if the pandemic subsidies enough by then, the New Democracy government counting on a faster pace for a vaccination program after allowing most retailers to open on April 5.
There are still restrictions on the number of customers in stores and a three-hour time limit how long they can shop, although there's been a return to the click-and-collect method that allows people to order online and pick up outside a stores.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking Parliament after being blistered b rival parties for his wavering handling of the pandemic, indicated the after-Easter opening is coming, although it may be too late for some eateries who said they wouldn't survive the lockdowns.
He also 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, have received state assistance in some form.
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 have 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 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.
“With current government measures, 45% of businesses say they won’t be able to open again,” said Giannis Chatzitheodosiou, President of the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen said them.
“It is a catastrophe both professionally and personally for businesses that have tried for years to stay afloat,” he said, still closed as spring began and the government aimed to reopen to tourists on May 15 from most countries.
The current lockdown began Nov. 7, 2020 and alternated between tough and lenient measures, now eased for retailers in most areas, except for the second-and-third largest cities of Thessaloniki and Patras, and also Kozani, screaming the continued shutdown is unfair.