CORONAVIRUS

Restaurants, bars to get €330 mln boost

Funds announced as prime minister notes that catering industry won’t be opening anytime soon

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The government will provide €330 million in aid to restaurants, bars and cafés to buy enough supplies to cover the first two or three months after their reopening.

That reopening won’t happen anytime soon, according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“I emphasize that we are not ready today to say when dining out will reopen. This will happen when epidemiological conditions allow for it,” Mitsotakis said Thursday evening after a meeting with officials and representatives of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Businesses (POESE).

Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Mega TV after the meeting that the reopening of restaurants and similar enterprises “is not a matter for the next two weeks,” and that other business activities had greater priorities. Asked for a specific date, he avoided committing himself; he also avoided saying whether the reopening would take place before Greek Orthodox Easter, which falls on May 2 this year.

The money for the aid will come from the European Union’s Structural and Cohesion Funds (ESPA). That is why the EU’s approval is necessary, something the government considers as good as done.

“We have designed the largest sectoral [aid] through ESPA,” Georgiadis said. “The greatest problem for all [sector professionals] is that they lack working capital. We decided to cover the purchase of basic supplies for the restart,” he added.

Eligible businesses include those that saw 2020 sales drop at least 30% below those of 2019. Enterprises that were set up in 2019 will receive aid if, during a part of last year, sales were 30% or more below their 2019 level. Those that set up shop in 2020 are automatically eligible.

This means that enterprises that limited their losses or even expanded through deliveries and takeaways are not eligible to receive aid.

The amount of aid will be 7% of 2020 sales and will be capped at 100,000 euros per Tax Identification Number (AFM). The government will consider a special formula for franchises.

Applications for aid must be submitted by July 31 and the disbursed amount must be spent by December 31 this year. This will be checked against invoices, and any amount not spent must be returned.

It is estimated that 35,000-40,000 businesses will be eligible for aid.

In January 2021, the last month for which official data are available, sales at restaurants, bars and cafés were 57.2% lower than January 2020. The greatest drop was on the island of Santorini (92.8%).