ATHENS – With fears that thousands of restaurants, bars and taverns across Greece won’t survive a third lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, dozens have already closed in popular areas of the Greek capital.
That includes the hip area of Gazi, the rich enclave of Kolonaki and around Syntagma Square in the heart of the city, said Kathimerini in a report on their plight as they pleaded for more aid from the New Democracy government.
Landlords are looking for people willing to take a chance on renting space that is shut down to food sector businesses with no timetable on when the pandemic will be brought under control enough to let them reopen.
Some of the rental ads date back to last March, when the food service sector faced the first lockdown, while many commercial lease contracts that expired at the end of the year have not been renewed, the paper said.
Most worrying though is that among those closed permanently by their previous owners were in prime locations and with heavy foot traffic now not happening, including almost outside the Gazi metro station.
The phenomenon is all across the capital, including the rich northern suburb of Kifissia, although many have large outdoor spaces that had kept them going with indoor dining shut off.
Across Attica, which includes Athens, food service sales fell 35 percent in 2020 as the pandemic took hold, bringing in 1.57 billion euros ($1.9 billion) compared to 2.41 billion euros ($2.92 billion) in 2019, the paper said, citing figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) on Feb. 19.
The country’s second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki has seen its food services hit even harder, especially small shops serving kebabs as well as coffee shops that have limited outdoor seating along the popular waterfront promenade.
Those places also rely on college students who are there in far fewer numbers with remote learning on and off and the lockdowns cutting deep into revenues – almost none at all generated in bars and taverns with indoor space only.
The association of the sector’s professionals in Thessaloniki estimates that about 300 food service enterprises and bars will not reopen, reporting that in 2020 turnover dropped 34 percent to 341.55 million euros ($413.9 million) from 517.2 million euros ($626.76 million) in 2019.
Across Greece the food service and bar sector’s turnover amounted to 6.05 billion euros ($7.33 billion), down 37.7 percent from 2019. The biggest losses have predictably been recorded in tourism destinations such as Mykonos, down 73.3 percent, and Santorini, off 71 percent.
In the last quarter of the year, which includes the second lockdown, the sector’s turnover shrank 46 percent on an annual basis across the country, continuing in 2021 with a third lockdown still on now.