Interior Minister suggests reopening catering in Latvia

Interior Minister Sandis Ģirģens (KPV LV) is suggesting catering establishments be allowed to reopen with additional rules, Latvian Television reported November 12.

He is proposing to allow sit-in service while complying with epidemiological safety rules. If customers without masks are served, the entrepreneur could get a penalty of up to €5,000.

Since the start of emergency November 9, catering companies have been allowed to serve only take-out. In Ģirģens' opinion, this is more an inconvenience than a benefit.

“I do not dispute the fact that there is an emergency, we need to reduce the number of infected people, but the tools to achieve this must be such that they don't limit business,” the Minister said.

Ģirģens proposed to amend the emergency regulation by allowing caterers to serve people on-site, but only if they wear masks. Masks will only be allowed to be taken off to eat. Customers who do not use personal protective equipment should be prohibited from being served. For infringement of this provision, the merchant should be penalized by up to EUR 5000.

The restaurant industry has taken the initiative with mixed feelings.

“Allow sitting in, it would certainly be good. Many catering companies could save jobs, not fire employees, because the flow of people would be greater,” – said Jānis Jenzis, head of the Latvian Restaurant Society.

“As regards the part of the minister's proposals on penalties, I am not really a supporter of the punishments. Entrepreneurs in catering companies and supermarkets cannot force people to wear masks if they do not want to,” said Jenzis.

In the catering sector, turnover has now fallen by around 85%, the number of employees has been reduced, spending is limited and entrepreneurs are not prepared to hire additional guards to deal with anti-maskers.

The proposals have been submitted to the Intergovernmental Coordination Group, but are not yet known when they could be viewed by the Government.

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