ZAGREB, 30 January (Hina) – Bar and restaurant owners in Zagreb will not defy the coronavirus rules and reopen their establishments in large numbers on 1 February, fearing inspections and stiff fines, after the ban on their reopening has been extended until 15 February.
Hina learned after a meeting of bar and restaurant owners in Zagreb on Saturday that about a dozen establishments would defy the ban and reopen on Monday.
“Although the word was around that over 100 establishments in Zagreb, mostly cafes, would reopen on 1 February, at least to serve coffee and drinks to go despite the ban, it seems that this will not happen after all, because many of them backed down after considering the possible consequences,” the head of the Zagreb association of bar and restaurant owners, Franz Letica, told Hina by telephone after the meeting.
He said that it was an informal meeting, called by bar and restaurant owners on their own initiative, to discuss the situation and see what to do to protect their businesses and workers.
Letica noted that the association was neither calling on its members to protest nor to reopen despite the ban, but that it supported them because they were all in the same trouble after being shut for two month now.
Cafe owner Petra Odobašić also confirmed to Hina that hospitality establishments would not reopen in large numbers on Monday, but added that a dozen establishments would defy the ban because they had no money to pay their bills and workers.
“Many of us have not received aid for our workers on time, some have been waiting since November for the money to be paid into their accounts. The situation now is such that workers are asking about their pay and the government is asking about the bills being paid, and we have no money to pay the bills. The measures in place do not make sense to us and we cannot accept that, for example, shopping centres, hairdressers’ and other establishments can work and we cannot,” Odobašić said.
She revealed that the meeting was held in the car park of a shopping centre and involved about 80 bar and restaurant owners from Zagreb, Karlovac and other cities.
“We are asking the national coronavirus response team to reconsider the ban and to allow us to work,” Odobašić said, adding that the word was around that they would be closed until 1 May and that this was “just terrible.”
She announced that they would join other business owners at a protest rally announced by the Voice of Entrepreneurs (UGP) association for 3 February in Zagreb.
The national association of bar and restaurant owners did not return Hina’s calls and emails. However, it said in a post on social media on Friday evening that it was not encouraging hospitality establishments to reopen and thus break the law on civil protection, the law on the protection of the population from infectious diseases and the criminal code because by doing so they would risk stiff penalties ranging from HRK 20,000 (€2,700) to 70,000 (€9,300) and a maximum of three years’ imprisonment.
The national association said it was continuing working together with the UGP in efforts to ensure better support for hospitality establishments.