Venue owners dismiss 10pm closing time as ‘extension of lockdown’

Cafes are preparing to reopen on Wednesday. Photo:
Cafes are preparing to reopen on Wednesday. Photo:

The hospitality and cultural sectors have criticised the government’s relaxation of the lockdown rules for not going far enough.

The association of concert halls, VSCD, said the 10pm closing time for theatres meant they were still not able to ‘offer the public a full-fledged night out’, while cinema owners said the ‘earlier delight at the relaxation has been completely overshadowed by disbelief at the announced restrictions.’

Sanne Wallis de Vries and Diederik Ebbinge, who organised the ‘Kapsalon Theater’ protest last week in which theaters opened as makeshift hairdressers, said the limited audiences and opening times would make it economically unviable for many venues to open.

‘Opening theatres until 10pm with 1.5 metre distancing effectively means one-third capacity. Most performances can’t cover their costs … Artists playing small venues will earn nothing,’ Ebbinge said on Twitter.

Musical producer Stage Entertainment Nederland also said most shows would lose money if they could only fill 30% of seats. ‘This “relaxation” doesn’t take us a step further and effectively means an extension of the lockdown,’ said director Walter Drenth.

The football association added its voice to the calls to extend closing time until 11pm.

‘We will hold talks with MPs to ask if they can ask the cabinet for the perspective that is needed not just for us, but for the other sectors as well.,’ said a spokesman for the KNVB. ‘We hope the cabinet will quickly come round to a different point of view.’

Cost to business

Research published in the Telegraaf newspaper calculated that businesses had lost several billion euros collectively since the latest restrictions were imposed in November.

Rabobank said the total losses in the catering, culture and retail sectors ran to an estimated €2 billion, while ING said bars and restaurants saw their takings fall by 70% during the lockdown from December 14, while clothes and shoe shops were down by 90%.

Koninklijke Horeca Nederland, which represents bars, restaurants and cafés, also expressed mixed feelings at the latest changes to the rules.

‘After a long, dark period of lockdown, the sound of hospitality is finally ringing out again through the streets of the Netherlands,’ it said.

But the pop venue and festivals’ association NVFP was more downcast about what it described as ‘bogus relaxations’ that would benefit only ‘a very limited part’ of the sector.

‘The lion’s share of our turnover is generated between 10pm and 4am, said a spokesman. Furthermore, organisations need their venues or sites to be 90% full on average in order to cover their costs.’

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