SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Saturday’s protests by dozens of bar and cafe owners, who opened in defiance of the government’s closure orders, passed off without problems Dirk Beljaarts, director of hospitality industry lobby group KHN, told television talk show Nieuwsuur that there will be ‘more protests in the days to come’.
Beljaarts described the public support for Saturday’s protests as ‘heartwarming’, adding that if opening cafes was ‘so life-threatening’, mayors would have acted to close them down.
On Friday, the government said shops, universities and fitness centres could reopen, but that bars, cafes and the cultural sector must remain shut because of the surge in coronavirus cases.
On Saturday, however, cafes and restaurants all over the country opened their doors for a time in protest, in several places with the tacit approval of local officials. In Valkenburg and Venlo in Limburg, cafés opened, and council officials did not intervene, local broadcaster1Limburg reported.
Hylke van der Werf, from café Thús in Drachten, told Omrop Fryslan he only got the keys to his premises two years ago. ‘We’ve been closed more than we have been open,’ he said.
‘We’re opening now for a little bit. We don’t want to ask for financial help, we want to earn it ourselves.’
In Utrecht, café owner Gijs Werschkull said he was opening his cafes for the day because the sector had been extremely hard hit by the closures. ‘I hope the mayor sees this as a protest,’ he told RTV Utrecht.
‘We have had a lot of support from our customers.’ Mayor Sharon Dijksma reportedly turned down his invitation to lunch but said she would be pressing the government to rethink its decision and to be generous in its compensation to the sector.
Council wardens in Utrecht handed out four verbal and two written warnings to owners who opened their cafes and bars despite the closure orders.