ATHENS – In a symbolic gesture of protest, restaurant and café owners around Greece handed over the keys to their establishments as they pleaded for help from the New Democracy government, saying some won’t survive another COVID-19 lockdown.
They said they need further state aid to be able to open again when a third lockdown ends, or by that time it will be too late as a number can’t keep going after being closed more than half the previous 11 months.
Some 80,000 restaurants and cafes in tourism-dependent Greece, employing about 350,000 people, closed in September and have been allowed to offer only delivery and take away services since.
“I can't go on, we can't go on," said 43-year-old cafe owner Dimitris Katsaros to the news service Reuters which reported on the plight of the food and beverage and catering sector.
"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 said.
That came as restaurateurs 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, planning to have them sent to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
"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.
"It is a catastrophe both professionally and personally for businesses that have tried for years to stay afloat,” he said, and as the government hasn’t said how 32 billion euros ($38.81 billion) in European Union loans and grants will be spent for COVID-19 relief for the hardest hit businesses.