ECONOMY

Mass restaurant, cafe, bar closures seen

mass-restaurant-cafe-bar-closures-seen

Up to one in three restaurants, cafes and bars is facing closure due to the restrictive measures introduced by the government to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Owners tell Kathimerini that 30,000-40,000 businesses of about 120,000 active in the sector may declare bankruptcy.

Although they do recognize the need for the restrictions, they are also calling for the government to support the sector, since the pandemic has dealt a serious blow to their liquidity.

These same owners say the government’s decision for restaurants, cafes and bars to shut from midnight to 7 a.m. in many areas from yesterday until August 23, in response to local outbreaks of the disease, is a “catastrophe.”

Many owners are thinking of keeping their businesses shut for the duration of the restrictions, which also include a ban on standing clients in bars, in addition to restrictions on clients per table and as a total.

They also warn that the measure can be counterproductive, since revelers, especially the young, can still buy alcohol at minimarkets and congregate on beaches and in parks and squares in enough numbers to spread the coronavirus.

“There is already difficulty in making due payments for current obligations; a wave of delinquent payments is not out of the question,” says Giorgos Kavvathas, president of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE), who doubles as president of the Greek Restaurateurs and Related Professions’ Federation.

“In areas where a total, or even partial, lockdown has been imposed there should be support measures for everyone, such as suspension of payments, lower VAT rates, covering 100% of non-salary labor costs [he means employers’ social security contributions], rescheduling businesses’ debts and extending the 40% discount on rents to the end of the year,” he adds.

According to Kavvathas, if there are no support measures, the whole sector is headed toward catastrophe, which will also hurt the state and the businessmen dealing with the sector.

​​​​​​The situation in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest, is also desperate. Restaurants and entertainment businesses there have also been called to limit their opening hours.

“After being forced to close for three months, the sector never managed to get back on its feet,” a member of the association of Thessaloniki restaurateurs says. “And, since the government offers no help, we will face liquidity problems,” he says.

Another representative says that the only help to have been offered so far is a tax rebate.