After more than two months of coronavirus lockdown, cafes and restaurants in the Greek capital opened on Monday, giving a sense of a return to normalcy.
Restaurants have been permitted to welcome customers in their outdoor dining spaces as part of the fourth phase of a government plan to ease the restrictions imposed in March to stem coronavirus infections.
Marialena Nikolaidis told Greek Reporter on Monday morning that there are a few customers but her cafe, “Adrianou 33,” is observing all the appropriate health precautions. “All employees are wearing masks and we are keeping social distance,” she stressed.
“We hope that with time, people will become less scared of the virus and they will gradually return to the cafes and restaurants,” she added.
“We are anxious to see if customers will come. Usually this time of the day we would have been quite busy, but as you can see we are empty,” said Iris Voutsinou at the “360 Bar,” which has spectacular views of the Acropolis.
“We have never experienced something similar in the past, but we are optimists. We think that things will gradually return to normal,” she told Greek Reporter.
Cafes and restaurants opened with several different restrictions in place, including a distance of between 70 cm to 1.7 meters (up to 5 feet, six inches) between seats and a maximum of six customers per table. The inside of the premises still remain out of bounds for the customers, unless they are using the lavatory.
However, three in ten cafes or restaurants might not open on Monday, Nikos Nifoudis, of the Thessaloniki Catering Initiative told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) on Saturday.
He explained that only about 2,000 such businesses in the municipality of Thessaloniki are licensed to place tables and seats outdoors. On the other hand, he said, some of these are likely to continue to operate as take-aways while they observe how similar businesses will fare in the coming days.
“The sector is very anxious to see how returning to business will play out,” Nifoudis stressed, “because no one can predict how confident customers are to return to cafes and restaurants, while the running costs of any such establishment remains high regardless of serving ten or fifty customers at any one time.”
Another concern that worries owners in the broader catering sector is the reduced spending power many people might be facing as a result of the pandemic, he underscored.