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Brussels' 23.00 bar closure is bitter pill to swallow
All bars in Brussels must shut at 23.00 instead of 01.00 starting tonight (Monday), as part of new measures announced by Brussels mayors at the weekend. The restrictions, which also ban gatherings of more than 10 people from 23.00 to 6.00, will continue for three weeks before being reviewed.
The measure was imposed in response to the steep rise in the capital’s coronavirus cases. But it came as a surprise, especially as the National Security Council (NSC) had relaxed some measures last week. Notably, from 1 October, people can go mask-free outside, except for in busy areas like shopping streets.
“This decision is a bit paradoxical, as after the NSC we had the impression that we were getting back to normal,” said Ixelles mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo/Greens). He added there was a lot of reluctance to take such a step. “I understand that the figures are worrying. There is a will to take action, but I would like to be sure that it will have an effect.”
Auderghem mayor, Didier Gosuin (DéFi), agreed. “On 23 September we were being told that everything was OK, and now the interior minister calls this meeting because we are in a crisis situation.” For Gosuin, last Saturday’s news gives the impression that politicians are going back on their decisions, changing them and making them tougher. “All this is incomprehensible,” he said.
Brussels mayor Philippe Close said it would be difficult to get the horeca (hotel, restaurant and catering) sector to respect the measure, especially “as we are trying to put life back into our cities.” But “the figures are there,” he said. “Today. we have a problem and we must resolve it.”
Unsurprisingly, café owners took the news badly. “It’s like we’ve gone back to 13 March,” said one Brussels bar owner. “We respect what politicians are asking us to do, but at a certain point, they must also let us work.”
Marc Van Muylders, president of the tourist accommodation section of Fédération Horeca Brussels, agreed everyone realised action must be taken. But he hoped the controls would not mean people left the bars to gather in the streets.
“We shouldn't just move the problem to somewhere else,” he said. “We are asking for the authorities to be very strict on this.”