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May’s record rainfall dampened cafes and restaurants

15:34 03/06/2024

The month of May set records for rainfall this year in Belgium, with 23 days of rain compared to the seasonal norm of 14.7, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute.

The news was hardly surprising to the catering and hotel sectors, which have called the month a disaster for their industries.

Profits are down across the board with an average drop of 15% for the month of May.

In the space of just a few weeks, cafes and restaurants say they have lost significant business and are now in damage-control mode.

“We really hope that we'll be able to make up for lost time in June,” Damien Baert, owner of La Cuve à Bière in Namur, told RTBF.

At Les Poules à Lier café in Namur, where the terrace adds 56 outdoor seats to the 30 indoors, a rainy month is a disaster.

“May and June are practically the two busiest months of the year,” owner Simon De Fays told RTBF.

“It's also more difficult to organise the work. It's complicated to put together teams profitably in this uncertain weather.”

Some terraces in Belgium are seasonable, only open for a few months. To have one of those months be so wet can spell doom for the business, and May was certainly a washout.

May 2024 is now the second wettest May for the current reference period with a total of 124.9mm of rainfall, along with being the eighth consecutive month to record above-average rainfall.

The highest daily total was measured on 29 May at Mont-Rigi in Waimes, where 53.7mm of rain fell.

The previous record for the current reference period (since 1991) was 22 days, in both May 2007 and May 2021, according to the Royal Meteorological Institute's monthly climate report.

The absolute record, taking into account all records since 1833, was set in 1856 with 30 days of precipitation. Only on 21 May that year was it dry.

May 2024 was also warmer than average with an average temperature of 14.9 degrees, compared with the seasonal norm of 13.9.

Sunshine, on the other hand, was below normal: the sun shone for just 140 hours in May, 59 hours less than normal.

Photo: Bruno Fahy/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons