Business owners have welcomed a government decision to reopen restaurants and cafes under a normalization plan but are calling for long business hours which they say may help reduce overcrowding in those venues at a time when infections are on the rise.
Restaurants and cafes had been closed for months and are allowed only to provide takeaway and delivery services as part of the measures aimed at taking the spread of COVID-19 under control.
During this period, those businesses suffered huge financial losses and accumulated large debts.
Last week, the government rolled out what it dubbed the “controlled normalization” phase, easing weekend lockdowns in low- and medium-risk cities and limiting lockdowns to Sundays in those deemed at higher risk.
Restaurants and cafes are welcoming customers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 50 percent capacity in the low-, medium- and high-risk provinces. They remain closed in the very-high risk provinces.
However, the scenes from last weekend of crowded cafes and customers ignoring anti-virus rules alarmed many experts.
“Restaurants and cafes have seen a strong demand since they reopened. The whole responsibility should not lay only with these businesses, but customers must also act responsibly,” Kaya Demirer, the head of the Turkish Restaurant and Entertainment Association (TURYİD), told daily Milliyet.
Demirer proposed extending the business hours, which he argued may prevent the crowd in those venues.
If the restaurants and cafés are allowed to receive customers until 10 p.m. then the scenes witnessed over the weekend could be avoided, he said.
“The situation is far from being perfect for restaurants but still better than before,” said Sayit Karabağlı, the head of an association representing restaurants in Istanbul.
His association has been tasked with conducting inspections to see if businesses are following the anti-virus rules, Karabağlı said, adding that: “But people are insisting on sitting at tables which are intentionally left vacant because of restrictions.”
He noted that this time round most of the restaurateurs are well aware of the risks of not complying with the rules.
Some 200,000 officials inspected a total of 120,000 businesses, mostly restaurants, cafes and other eateries, in 81 provinces and all districts on March 6 under the “dynamic supervision model,” the Interior Ministry said on March 8.
Administrative actions were taken against more than 3,300 businesses and individuals for violating the rules, the ministry added.
Turkey has seen a spike in the infection cases over the past weeks with the daily virus cases currently hovering around 11,000.
Hurriyet Daily News