Warm weather has created a desire for people to relax more outdoors in fresh air. Because coffee shops and restaurants can only sell food for takeaway, many use this option to sit on a bench, lawn, or elsewhere, and eat on the street. For caterers, this creates confusion as to why not provide people with more comfortable conditions at disinfected tables on terraces where all epidemiological security considerations are observed.
Food for takeaway has already become the everyday of many. Because it's not allowed to sit in cafes and restaurants, many are happy to order food at home.
It also has negative consequences – as explained by the chair of the Latvian Restaurant Association Jānis Jenzis, the drop in turnover in the catering sector has fallen by 70% compared to the time before the pandemic. “A lot of entrepreneurs are on the verge of exhaustion,” he said.
Entrepreneurs are willing to operate on the belief that the state should start earning back the money paid in benefits.
The owner of several restaurants, Māris Kreilis, pointed out: “When we remember May last year, we used the whole yard, with 40 tables. There were distances, there were fences, there were flowers in front. There is no logic in many decisions, first, and second, also in action. We see what is happening on the streets right now, people standing by the shops in rows, bustling."
Kreilis, who has three catering companies in Riga, said that two of them are on total downtime, but one can work part-time.
“We as an industry are prepared to chase those people, watch them, what we are already actually doing. People are very understanding and you can talk with everybody,” he explained.
The existing arrangements, when food can be bought for takeaway, provides for the survival of individual companies, but financially it also has other negative effects, such as the increase of plastic mountains. With a campaign “NO to Plastic! YES to terraces!” the industry hopes to return to the terraces sooner.
“To be able to serve guests face-to-face, from normal, real tableware rather than plastic boxes. Also meeting with [epidemiologist Jurijs] Perevoščikovs, he did not convince me that squeezing on a park bench or sitting on the sidewalk, or eating by an electricity box, is safer than on the disinfected terraces,” Jenzis said.
Māris Kreilis said: “If in the nearest [future], at latest the May holiday – if it does not open, then it is very decisive for many. Some flights to resorts are already allowed right now. People have a choice – all right, I can fly, I won't leave my money here. Maybe let's allow staying here?”
However, whether the terraces will be opened until the May holiday, the government will only decide next week.