Pandemic restrictions

Hospitality curfew “a catastrophe” say business owners

The imposed 11pm closing time puts a damper on customers. Simon Verjus/Maison Moderne

The imposed 11pm closing time puts a damper on customers. Simon Verjus/Maison Moderne

Restaurants, cafés and bars have to close at 11pm, leaving many business owners frustrated as they struggle to make a living. For many, the early closing time makes no sense, and the lack of continuity amid ever changing rules hurts their business.

“It’s a catastrophe,” François Koepp, head of Luxembourg’s hospitality federation Horesca tells Delano, “because people don’t go out.” According to Koepp, the 11pm curfew is counter-productive, as people will meet up at home, where little to no rules apply. “If at least we had to close at midnight, then maybe fewer people would go to their friends’ for drinks.”

Andrew Martin, DJ and PR manager of several venues in Luxembourg City, feels this way too: “If we’re closing different pockets of different sectors, we’re never going to get rid of it.” He adds that “not only do we have these checks--although it’s understandable--it puts people off going to multiple places in one night.” Many people, even if they do go out, won’t move. 

While considering passes and tests necessary, Martin asks the government to “stop shutting us down early. We need to make that money; we need to make a living.”

Restaurants such as Mesa Verde have also suffered from the 11pm closing time. Missing out on certain sets of crowds, such as those who want to sit down for a meal after going to the cinema, or the dance crowd who usually also dine later, is an issue for owner Lucien Elsen. But he points to shifts in rules creating confusion for customers as the main problem. “People are so confused by the regulations. There is one set of rules, a few weeks later another,” he says.

Martin adds that the early closing times might even stop people from going out at all. “It has put a real depressing vibe on a Friday night,” Martin says. For both Martin and Koepp, the 2G+ system should be enough without an extra curfew.

Penalising hospitality businesses

Claiming benefits has also been more complicated than expected as providing proof of 40% loss--the requirement for the subsidy to be allocated--requires resources. This is more so the case of family-owned restaurants than for groups that own multiple establishments.

“At the end of the day we are the goldfish in the aquarium and around us there are sharks,” says Elsen who worries that the current situation is far more unfavourable towards smaller businesses.

The government on Tuesday said it would be winding down pandemic aid for businesses towards the summer. 

For Martin, most hospitality businesses have respected CovidCheck rules and sanitary measures but always end up being penalised first. The early closing times “make no difference,” he says. “We work hard to maintain a living and stay as safe as possible, and to close us down a few hours early, when we’d be making a large portion of our money, is just unnecessary.”

Lack of transparent communication

For Koepp, the health directorate should seek council with those who work in the field, instead of “taking decisions among themselves”. Asked whether there had been any discussions between the directorate and the federation, Koepp says: “Zero. Absolutely nothing. If they tell us the day before (the restrictions come in force), that’s not communicating.”

He slammed the fact that the health directorate seems to navigate at sight, and suggested that it should instead deliver a strategy. For instance, it could link different levels of hospitalisation and infection rates to different levels of restrictions in the hospitality industry.

“This is our living, this is what we do,” says Martin, who agrees with Koepp on the lack of communication.  “We’re vaccinated, we’re boosted, we just have to live with it and get on with it.”

Talks between the government and federation about the restrictions are planned this week, Koepp said. The current covid-19 restrictions are set to be in place until the end of February although parliament has previously intervened ahead of the deadline to change parts of the rules.