Within week of reopening, Czech restaurants ordered to close earlier

Photo: 3D Maennchen, Pixabay

New restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus will force all Czech restaurants and bars to close at 8 pm from Wednesday. Such businesses were only allowed to reopen last week – and operators say they cannot be the reason Covid numbers are on the rise.

Photo: ČTK / Luděk Peřina

Following the move to a lower level on the national system of coronavirus measures, restaurants and bars (along with shops and services) were allowed to reopen on Thursday for the first time in many weeks, albeit on fifty-percent capacity and with a maximum of four customers a table.

There were reports in the following days of some pubs breaking the mandated 10 pm cut-off time by “closing” when police patrols came by but then serving again later.

Some images of busy looking restaurants also cast doubt on whether capacity rules were being followed.

Jan Blatný,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government
On Monday Health Minister Jan Blatný said that despite a rise in the national Covid “score” the country was not returning to a higher level of restrictions, which would have included the fresh closure of restaurants.

However, some adjustments are being made from Wednesday

“We are reducing the opening times of restaurants, bars, clubs and similar facilities to 8 pm. This includes hotel restaurants. The consumption of alcohol in public places is banned at all times of the day. We also decided to ban the operation of refreshments services and the sale of alcoholic drinks at markets of all kinds.”

The head of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants, Václav Stárek, has come out against the new restriction on opening times, telling Czech Radio that only individual hostelries who breach regulations should be punished.

Václav Stárek,  photo: Prokop Havel,  ČRo
Mr. Stárek also said that his organisation’s members were open for such a short time that they could not have contributed to a rise in Covid-19 figures.

Lori Wyant Selby runs the restaurants The Tavern and U Kurelů in Prague’s Žižkov district. She says she is surprised by the speed of the reduction in opening hours.

“We were prepared to have at least a couple of weeks, or a bit longer, to see how things would affect the public in terms of the restaurants being open. It seems to us as well that it’s quick to point a finger at restaurants and bars, since we were only allowed to open for four days. I’m not completely sure that that’s the response that should have happened, but I’m not a health minister [laughs]. We’re just going to do what they tell us to do and hope for the best.”

Photo: ČTK / Miroslav Chaloupka

Wyant Selby also explains how the earlier closing time may affect her sector.

“For restaurants in general, there’s an early seating and a later seating, and you usually make the money on the later seating. That’s where people want to come and spend a little more money and enjoy themselves. Possibly this is why the government wants to shut at 8 too; they want people to eat and get out and not drink as much – that’s what I’m guessing.”