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Foodmet re-opens after many discussions and at great expense

20:39 04/05/2020

Anderlecht’s Foodmet re-opened last week under a strict set of coronavirus guidelines that were particularly challenging to fulfil. The indoor market at Brussels’s Abattoir has been closed for weeks, and the open-air portion will remain closed for the time being.

“Even though there were far fewer people after the lockdown started, the police determined during one of the first weekends that it was too difficult to keep people 1.5 metres away from each other,” Foodmet spokesperson Paul Thielemans told Bruzz. “We had to shut for the entire month of April.”

After discussions with local authorities, Foodmet has now been allowed to re-open. But it had to go to considerable lengths to satisfy corona regulations. First it had to buy 200 shopping carts to ensure that no more than 200 people are in the space at any given time.

Foodmet doesn’t normally supply shopping carts and went in search of second-hand options. It found them in the Netherlands for a cost of €15,000. “We also had to create one-way traffic in the space as well as a clear entry and exit,” said Thielemans.

Slow weekend

Open Thursday through Sunday, business was slow, but Thielemans hopes it will pick up. “In a normal weekend, we usually get about 50,000 people coming through,” he said. “Now we’ll be happy with 8,000.”

Most of the 50 stalls in the market are back open, but some vendors didn’t show up. “I’m afraid that there are a few who we won’t see again,” said Thielemans. “Especially the older vendors will be discouraged. A financial blow like this towards the end of your career – some vendors can’t pick it up again, or just don’t want to.”

The Foodmet’s customers are extremely diverse, says Thielemans, and many of them didn’t quite understand the new rules or why a shopping cart was being thrust at them. “We have specific products that you can’t find in a regular supermarket and certainly not at these prices – like organ meats and staples of the Romanian and Polish kitchen. But because it’s so multi-cultural, it’s not always easy to communicate in the right language. A typical Brussels problem, of course. But we have literally removed walls in the market to allow people to practice social distancing. Hopefully the rest of our public will find their way back soon.”

Photo courtesy Foodmet

Written by Lisa Bradshaw