Over 450 caterers closed doors in Latvia this year

Uncertainty about the future during Covid-19 and state aid mechanisms is the main reason why caterers surveyed by Latvian Radio November 9 are closing their doors. This year, 453 catering companies stopped working in Latvia.

Diāna Bīlmane-Ozoliņa, owner of Stirna un avokado cafe in Sigulda, opened last year just before the first state of emergency. Now they have decided to close the shop: “We are closing the shop-cafe on November 15, the production facilities remain, we have not given up, let us think of some new format remotely, but it is clear that we need all our customers.”

The café has specialized in vegetarian and vegan cooking, she said, there are many clients whose convictions are not in favor of Covid-19 vaccination. “Our customer, I might say, is quite alternative thinking, we also have these unvaccinated people here, yes, so we cannot survive if 30% of the customers are denied the opportunity to stay with us,” the entrepreneur said.

The main thing, though, is that the catering industry does not know in good time the conditions and support that will be in place.

She explained: “There was no information on whether and which companies would be supported. If we had such information at once and that we could figure out, to calculate that we could cover our fixed costs with the company's support from the State, if we saw that we could survive this situation, then there would be no such decision to close.”

A similar opinion was also expressed by Ēriks Dreibants, owner of Līgatne Pavāru māja:  “The government takes decisions to ban [working], but the support mechanisms then come long, agonizing, although the Latvian Restaurant Association already asked the government in the summer [..] to prepare for autumn. [..] Normally, we like to compare with neighbors – Estonia and Lithuania, they took care of those sectors, such as Lithuania's [and other 21 EU countries]. I was in Estonia two weeks ago, there is a catering life only with certificates, [..], but the business has not stopped and everything is going on, although there is the same situation as here, even a little worse,” he said

Dreibants, who also represents the Board of the Latvian Restaurant Association, estimates that it will not be easy for the industry to resume work after November 15.

“If no aid has been given to us, we are now told, for example, you can start working from November 15, but we need money to start working again, we need to buy products, well, very much preparation to get it started, now we are in such a hole. Our industry has vaccinated 95%, that shows the industry wants to work,” Dreibants said.

Information at the disposal of the State Revenue Service shows that this year until November 453 catering companies have been excluded from the register of taxpayers, 31 of which have been excluded after October 11, when the state announced an emergency. This year, 276 new catering companies have registered.

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