With no reopening date in sight, Belgian bars and restaurants despair

The “La Jungla” brewery in Brussels felt that its name made sense shortly after starting its activity. Only two days after its opening last March, the Belgian authorities ordered the first closure of bars and restaurants. With home delivery and lower costs, they can move on. But, no exact date of when they will reopen, uncertainty and anguish, increase.

“Sure. If it continues like this for five months, there will be a problem. But we try to be positive,” says Christophe Bravin, co-owner of the “La Jungle” brewery.

For Christophe, a lesson is drawn from the crisis: in difficult financial times, aid does not always go to those who need it most. “I think this kind of crisis continues to show that big companies are not affected as much, and I even feel that the measures that the government has taken supports them. They do not really help small companies. In reality, the restrictions are going to end all small businesses. So we need support, “he says.

2020, a deadly year for SMEs

Last fall, bankruptcies rose 25.7%, compared to the second quarter of 2020, according to Eurostat data. In the In the EU there are 16 million registered unemployed and another 40 million people who, although they retain their jobs, are not working at the moment due to health restrictions. They receive state aid but could lose their job at any moment. The European Trade Union Federation warns that the current context may lead to social unrest.

“These people have to be helped. In a situation where it is not possible to reopen, have to be compensated, otherwise social unrest will begin to occur and people will protest because they did not receive enough compensation to be able to comply with the rules, “explains Luca Visentini, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

The European Union is about to give the final green light to its 750,000 million dedicated to European recovery. But many countries are reluctant to finance social measures, because they fear rising debt. The unions, however, believe that governments should wait for the recovery money to pay off, at least until the fall of this year.

“Member States are very afraid of creating more debt, even though the debt linked to the recovery fund is free, because interest rates are now close to zero. So there is no reason to use this debt alibi not to continue with emergency measures. Member States must continue to spend to protect workers and companies. Otherwise, the money they receive for recovery will be useless. Because they will never improve the situation if they do not start now “, Luca Visentini says.

The European Parliament and the European Council will give the green light to the recovery fund, but it will be the Member States who will have to ensure that these funds also reach small and medium-sized enterprises.