Sunday 24 January 2021

Cafes, bars and the high street fear extended lockdown bloodbath

A closed cafe in Amsterdam. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Employers in the retail and hospitality sectors fear a ‘bloodbath’ if the coronavirus lockdown in the Netherlands is extended for at least two weeks, as reported.

‘The cents have been spent, there is no more leeway,’ Dirk Beljaarts, head of the hospitality sector association KHN told the Telegraaf on Monday. Without appropriate support there will be a tsunami of bankruptcies, he said. That position is echoed by non-food retail organisation Inretail.

Prime minister Mark Rutte is set to announce an extension to the current lockdown at Tuesday’s press conference and, sources in The Hague indicate, the government is planning to provide extra financial support for companies.

But Beljaarts says he fears the increase will not be enough because companies are not compensated 100% for their losses. ‘Over the past year, more than €5bn in savings has been pumped into the sector,’ he says. ‘You can only hold your breath and wait until the crisis ends if you are compensated for the 100% of your fixed costs.’

The hospitality sector has been dealing with coronavirus for almost a year. Bars, cafes and restaurants were closed for all but take away services in the first lockdown and allowed limited opening from June to mid-October, when the second lockdown was introduced.

Non-essential shops were closed in mid December. A spokesman for the Inretail organisation told the Telegraaf that being allowed to open for take away orders would help retailers to keep going. ‘Just like cafes, restaurants and DIY stores, shops should be able to open for pick-ups,’ he said.

‘We are being telephoned constantly,’ Inretail spokesman Paul te Grotenhuis told broadcaster NOS. ‘Everyone is saying the same thing: “help us, I am desperate and I can’t sleep”.’

Economy

Meanwhile ING chief economist Marieke Blom told Trouw in an interview that the current lockdown means some 10% of the Dutch economy is not functioning.

‘That might seem like not much, but remember that in a normal economy we are concerned if we are dealing with a contraction of 1%,’ she said.

We only think things are going okay because of the government support measures, which are keeping a lot of companies ticking over, she said.

The vaccines do mean light at the end of the tunnel, she said. ‘The economic recovery will start somewhere between spring and the summer. But the wave of bankruptcies will follow, and that will have an impact on employment,’ she said. ‘2021 will have two sides to it.’

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