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Economy

Greek Restaurateurs Mull Suit to for COVID-19 Lockdown Payments

ATHENS – Closed half of the previous year under COVID-19 lockdowns that have put some on the edge of bankruptcy, Greek restaurant owners said they are considering legal action to get more compensation from the state.

Restaurateurs said they have suffered irreparable losses and damages by being forced to shut down during two lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the Coronavirus. 

Some 30-40 restaurant owners  in Athens are already on board with the idea of going to administrative courts, said Kathimerini, although the New Democracy government has offered subsidies to them as well as other businesses closed and workers temporarily laid off.

“A law firm we cooperate with is already looking into the issue and I believe that in March the case will have been submitted,” Maria Botonaki, a lawyer herself and owner of a bar in central Athens, told the paper.

She is involved with the Circle of Food Service Professionals she said represents 300 enterprises in talks with some 50 other associations around the country similarly hard-hit.

Food companies want payments corresponding to their take in 2019 before the pandemic began, seeking about half of their losses covered so they can survive until being allowed to reopen, many which won’t.

“Without having had to be prompted, the German government is handing out compensation to food service companies corresponding to 75% of their 2019 turnover. The French government is also handing out very high compensation. We are aware this is neither Germany nor France, and we certainly do not have such high demands,” Botonaki said.

She said restaurants, bars, taverns and food sector services are desperate, especially now with a hard lockdown being on the table as cases rose during a lenient second shutdown.

“Every day that passes is critical and possibly fatal,” said Botonaki, with fears the food services could be closed until even June, too late for many which won’t be around to open their doors as the summer tourism comes – if it does.

“Everyone has debts to someone. We fear that one in every two will never reopen after the sector is allowed to operate again,” warned Botonaki, similar to what happened in New York City.

She said major areas of Athens have already seen many restaurants gone for good, including in Kolonaki, Syntagma, Gazi and Psyrri, while main lease contracts that expired have not been renewed as landlords wanted to increase the rent during the pandemic to make a profit, gouging the businesses.

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